Dear Black Friend,
Am I supposed to call you that? Black, I mean. I really don’t know. It used to be African American was preferred, but then that seemed to be offensive too. I wanted to just call you friend, but then I found out that saying I’m colorblind is offensive because it can’t possibly be true. Society says I can’t just see you as my friend, with blood that runs the same color as mine, because you’re different. Your past makes you different, and how people as a whole see you makes you different. So I can’t see you as the same. In fact saying I do will bring major eye roll from many.
The thing is, I don’t want to offend you. I’m scared to death of saying the wrong thing, and even writing this post is a major deal to me. But more important than any worry that I might say this all wrong is the regret I will have if I don’t say it at all.
In truth, I don’t really know what to say. I certainly don’t have the answers, but I know you don’t expect that anyway. I mean, I want to have the answers; I do. I want to be able to say sentiments like “things have changed” and “it’s better now, we’re equal,” but I think we both know that’s not true. Just listening to some of my patients I care for (who happen to be white) speak bigoted remarks reminds me what is true. I want to say “white privilege” is a load of crap, but then I wonder, is it really?!
I want to believe we have moved light years ahead of where we used to be, and for the most part we really have, but then we haven’t too. I see footage of things like the shooting of Alton Sterling and I realize we have a very long way to go.
Some people say that you live in the past, and you can’t let go of things that have no relevance with how you’re treated today. Heck, I’ll be honest, I’ve thought that before. I certainly don’t think I should be judged for how my ancestors treated yours, but then I watch a movie like 12 Years as a Slave and I just wanna say “I’m sorry.” When you actually open your eyes and heart to the heinous treatment that occurred it’s impossible not to understand. I’d have a hard time moving past it too.
I want to say things like “color doesn’t matter,” but sadly I live in a world where it does matter to so many. This world where babies are murdered in the womb and parents strung out on crack forget to feed their kid, is the same world where cruel people enter positions that allow them to harm others. So although there are a lot of good moms and dads who raise their children safely and selflessly, and good people who serve as police officers to protect the public, there are just as many selfish, deadbeat parents and sadistic, racist cops who take pleasure in exerting authority often to the demise of others. I know this because I had a first cousin murdered by the police, but I also know not every cop is like that one who took Will’s life. But I digress.
This isn’t about whether cops are bad, or anything along that line. It’s about bad, inexcusable things happening to people of color, and for me to try and say they don’t, well, that would be a lie.
As I saw the press conference of Alton’s family crying my own eyes filled with tears, and I wanted to tell them “I’m sorry.” I wanted to tell you the same. I think there is a stigma against your race, and even though I tell myself “I’m not like that” and I raise my family to see you as the same, I cannot change certain things. I won’t diminish your feelings or your position by saying I can.
I’m a white, Southern woman, and even though I hate to say this out loud, cause I don’t want to believe it, I know that how I am seen in the job force, by the authorities, and in society as a whole is far different from how they see you. And because of that I really don’t know what to say.
I can say I’m sorry. I can say that I desire it to change. I can say we’ve come a long way, baby, and although we have so much further to go, I am hopeful for the future.
The thing is I don’t want us to be held back because it’s not 100% just yet. I don’t want division because we’re different. I don’t want the devil driving a wedge between God’s people. I don’t want you to have pain. I wish I knew all the answers. I really, really do.
I wish I had a magic switch I could flip to change everyone’s innate perceptions and ingrained prejudice, but right now that’s not something I can do. I try to teach my kids the best I can. I try to love you the sensitive way I know how. I fall short. I’ve probably fallen short all over this entire letter, but my heart is sincere, and I hope you see that.
I’m sorry for your pain. I’m sorry for the past. I’m sorry so many of us, including myself, ask you to let it go, not realizing how hard that can be. I’m sorry some people still see you as less. I wish it wasn’t so. I’m sorry Satan uses this to try and hold your culture back, convincing your children that you are hated by everyone, when I can promise you that is not true.
You are my friend. I think it only acknowledges the struggles your family has seen in the past and the struggles you still see today when I call you my black friend. I do see colorblind in a way, but on the other hand I do not. I see you’re different, and your struggles are not my own. I’m sorry if I’ve ever pretended otherwise. It was just because it hurt to admit it is true.
Regardless, I love you. You’re my sister, my brother, my friend. I do not always know what to say, and I know you don’t expect me to, but I just wanted you to know that I see. I see you.