Stay in your Lane
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Are our newfound friends dedicated boots on the ground or are they temporary squawkers seeking to drown out the black voice?
In the 60’s Minister Malcolm X was approached by a young, white college student, insisting that her heart was in the right place and pledging her support in his struggle for freedom and equality.
‘What can I do to join your movement,’ she innocently asked. Minister X poignantly and coldly responded, ‘Nothing!’ Then, he politely left her standing there on the steps of Columbia University with a bruised, affronted look. Many have suggested that Malcolm X was not being intentionally brutal; rather, he did not believe her timing was right. Fast forward to almost a century later (June 2020), when a prominent Black Lives Matter activist encouraged white people to get involved but at the same time cautioned them against overshadowing the black initiative.
There seems to be a pattern evolving—well-intentioned whites wanting to join a black movement and black skeptics questioning whether their hearts and minds are in the right place. Moreover, wondering if they are prepared to be foot soldiers in the trenches, as opposed to claiming the spotlight.
At times our counterparts appear as eager and willing as innocent children wanting so desperately to help out. But sometimes their passions get in the way. Worst, the amped-up excitement is temporary and often overshadowed by a loss of die-hard commitment when the fury dies down or the incinerator gets too hot. And sometimes, it’s inconsiderately all about a need to make themselves feel better.
In other instances, it seems all that’s transpired before this new wave of solidarity, can so easily be forgotten. I am so tempted to admonish our fair weather friends with that old cliché, "Those who dare forget history, are doomed to repeat it." In contrast to our white counterparts, blacks do not have the luxury of forgetting or so easily forgiving all the anti-black sentiments we’ve endured. That is to say, privileged whites calling the cops on us; premature death at the hands of racist-minded hooligans; pervasive and insidious legal discrimination; and a whole slew of other systematic racial inequalities that have set us back in time.
We are encamped by a rogue legal system on one hand; a culpable government on the other; and besieged by militant crime squads and heinous gunslingers who so vehemently despise the color of our skin that they aspire to kill us off. On the perimeter, we have law enforcement officials covering their tracks.
No doubt, black people are in the fight for their lives. The heat of the night is burning, uncontrolled. Our wounds have festered, dangerously reaching its core. Temporarily shared aims overshadowed by feigned theatrics and driven by self-centered needs are destined to return to us to a state of status quo. Consequently, this is not the type of unification we seek.
No doubt whites have turned out in unprecedented numbers to unify in a black cause. But in spite of all of this, a white person especially those who are privileged could never be us and I doubt are able to truly conceptualize what it is like in the day and life of the average black person.
I suppose that is why distracting from the message is not an option and such boundary lines must be drawn. I believe blacks in America want to make it clear that it is not empty promises, quick fixes, bruised egos, brief condolences, or bland gestures we seek; rather, it is equality and justice we demand.
Sometimes white people’s lack of understanding of these extremes can be counterproductive. Black determination and resolve should never be sacrificed as a remedy for other's longings. We are strong, we have resolve. We demand respect! And the focus remain on our cause.
Don’t get me wrong. We need white participation, no doubt. We see the worth in their privileged access to the niceties withheld from blacks. That is to say, access to conveniences—financial resources; doors that would otherwise be closed to blacks; use of their white platforms; and other consumable resources.
These are all viable ways in which whites can help advance the black movement. But know this much. The road to black deliverance is both steep and narrow and not for the faint at heart. Veer left and you get nicked, swerve right and you crash and burn. The implication is, stay strong but stay, in your assigned lane.
We never flinch despite all the drama and we expect our white allies in the struggle to be no less entrenched and deeply rooted. That means donning thick skins and unconditionally and permanently enduring much of the same maltreatment until that day when deliverance comes.
More than any of this, there must be this crucial moment of reckoning. No matter how loud the screams of black lives matter; no matter how many statutes are dismantled; or, how passionate the chant of, “I can’t breathe,” white America can never fathom or bare the unhealed stripes of 400 years of oppression or the feet presently planted upon our necks. And thus, can never be the guiding force in this movement.