“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” — Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl
I disagree with Anne Frank.
I do not believe that most people are good at heart because I live in America, and in America, most people are white, which would mean that most white people are good, which is impossible for me to believe.
Whenever I publicly dispute the notion that the majority of white people are good, many people misconstrue my hypothesis as a statement that most white people are bad. Contrary to that widely quoted excerpt from The Diary of a Young Girl illustrating the impervious optimism of youth, I believe that most people are neither good nor bad—they’re just people who exist and sleep and occasionally have sex, thereby making other people who exist.
But if—as someone probably once said—“the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” then being a good person is about more than just not being bad because, by definition, a good person can not stand idly by in the face of evil and “do nothing.”
In fact, I don’t even believe that it is possible for anyone to be “good at heart.” What does it even mean? Being “good at heart” is as meaningless and inconsequential as a surgeon revealing that he didn’t go to medical school but he can perform a quadruple bypass because he is a doctor “at heart.” Until someone invents a stethoscope that can detect the presence of cardiopulmonary righteousness, the only way to identify a good person is by their deeds and actions.
For the people who have endured centuries as casualties of evildoing, “good” is not just an abstract concept. James (not my uncle, but the apostle who hung out in Jesus’ entourage) wrote that “faith without works is dead.” In condemning the inaction of those who were “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that an entire generation of “white moderates” will one day repent “not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Good is not a default.
Good is not inert.
Good is tangible.
I believe there are good white people.
Most Black people believe it too. We may differ on how many good white people actually exist or if the non-good white people can be convinced to actually transform their heart-held beliefs into actions. But if Black people collectively believed that there were no good white people, they wouldn’t protest. They wouldn’t fight for change. In fact, I would argue that Black America’s entire history of fighting for justice and equality is nothing more than a desperate, faithful search for good white people. We need them to exist.
If Black people didn’t believe in the existence of good white people, instead of traveling the country trying to convince them to abolish slavery, Frederick Douglass would have accepted John Brown’s offer to just murder white people who stood in the way of freedom. If there were no good white people, King wouldn’t have resisted the Black Power movement. If there were no good white people, Fred Hampton wouldn’t have died trying to create a multiracial “rainbow coalition.” Every single action of those freedom fighters was an attempt to show the pervasive evil of racism to potentially good white people.
If there are no good white people, the only solution is to burn this motherfucker to the ground.
The biggest threat to white supremacy is good white people.
When white men beat civil rights workers and bombed places of worship, they weren’t as concerned with Black people sitting next to them at the diner counter as much as they were worried that those civil rights activists would wake up the country to the destructive inhumanity of Jim Crow. Because of men like John Lewis, white America couldn’t continue justifying its apathetic inertia and finally passed civil rights legislation over our dead bodies.
This is why Donald Trump has activated a platoon of secret police to Portland, Ore. It’s why there is such a backlash against The 1619 Project. It’s why respectable white nationalists like Tucker Carlson and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Hades) suggests that race-based slavery was a “necessary evil” or that diversity makes us weaker.
But it’s also why we’re seeing more white people joining the protest movement. Black Lives Matter activists yell, obstruct traffic and refuse to simmer down for the same three reasons police officers turn off their body cameras; corporations demand non-disclosure agreements; sexual abusers silence their victims and presidents hide their tax returns:
- Truth exposes evil.
- Racism is evil.
- If good people see evil, they have to fight it.
No good person could see the footage of George Floyd and do nothing. No human being with even an iota of virtue in their heart could hear the details of Breanna Taylor’s death and stay passive. As the apostle James said, one would have to either be faithless or dead to hear about Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching and not go to work.
But, if good white people are going to stand in solidarity with Black people, we put together 10 tips, facts and ways newly woke white people can help if they really want to stand in solidarity with Black people.
1. It’s not a movement.
As a performative measure, most companies, college campuses and media outlets have taken up the banner of equality and justice. However, you should be aware that Michael Brown wasn’t the first unarmed Black person killed by a police officer and George Floyd won’t be the last. The American civil rights movement actually started in 1619 and the Black Lives Matter movement existed before Virginia’s Assembly passed a statute that justified the “casual” murder of enslaved Black people, declaring:
Be it enacted and declared by this grand assembly, if any slave resist his master (or others by his masters order correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not be considered a felony
- October, 1669; “An Act About the Casual Killing of Slaves”
We been doing this shit.
2. Black people don’t trust you.
Aside from “not all white people,” one of the constant refrains that Black people hear from fragile, newly woke revolutionaries is: “Why would white people bother to help you if you are just gonna talk shit about them?”
Look, I’d like to tell you that this is part of a vetting procedure or an initiation process meant to test your mettle but truthfully, it’s hard for Black people to trust white people. While that may seem harsh, you must understand that overcoming white supremacy depends on a healthy suspicion of white people. Black people’s skepticism is not just protective—it’s a survival skill.
Think of it this way: Imagine if you were fighting a war and someone showed up at your bunker wearing the same uniform as the people who were shooting at your head. Would you trust them?
There is no way we can ever know if most white people are racist but we know that most racists are white. Or as Harriet Jacobs, an enslaved Black woman who spent seven years of her life hiding in an attic from her slave master, once said:
“Ah, if he had ever been a slave he would have known how difficult it was to trust white men.”
3. You don’t get extra credit.
No one cares how many Black friends you have, if you dated a Black man in college or even if you adopted a non-white child (sorry, Matt Gaetz) because being an ally does not come with honor and glory.
You don’t deserve a kudos, compliments or a cookie for not being racist any more than I deserve praise for going more than 17,000 days without murdering someone. In fact, the only person who deserves praise for an interracial relationship is Captain James T. Kirk, who not only ran one of the most diverse starships in the United Federation of Planets but unlike most white people, his love life actually proves that he doesn’t care “if you are Black, white or purple.”
But there is no reward for being a good person...Except for the T-shirts.
You’ll get some great deals on T-shirts.
4. No one knows what the fuck we’re doing.
You should know that there is never gonna be a cohesive strategy that everyone agrees on. If there was a blueprint on how to achieve freedom and equality in America, we wouldn’t need white people to do anything but print out some brochures at their office (for some reason, white people love brochures).
Solidarity doesn’t require you to stand on the front lines taking rubber bullets or fighting Nazis. How are all of those people at the protest gonna eat? Fix some sandwiches? Donate some water. Vote for local officials who promise police oversight. If you’re wondering how you can contribute, here is what you can offer:
5. Go get your people first.
If you are truly about that anti-racist life, there’s no need to tell anyone that you are an anti-racist. Just show it.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but most racists don’t take advice from Black people. You don’t even have to attend the rallies or buy a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker (did you get a T-shirt?). Perhaps the biggest help that a white person can provide is speaking up whenever you see racism—even if Black people aren’t around. Especially if Black people aren’t around.
Not only does this make racists more reluctant to act on their racist ideations, but it also assures Black people that they aren’t going crazy when they think: Am I crazy or does no one notice the racist elephant in the room?*
*Little-known fact: All elephants are racist. Even Dumbo.
6. No one will respect you.
If you’re doing this for admiration or respect, you’d be better joining the carnival.
Although we revere them in retrospect, the people involved in every movement were the subject of scorn and hate at the time. The majority of white America disapproved of the civil rights marches, the freedom rides, affirmative action and every step America has taken toward equality.
Remember the people who spit on Black kids who just wanted to go to a decent school? No?
Well, I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that you’re friends with some of their kids.*
*To be clear, I’m the one wagering donuts and you’re putting up the dollars.
7. Realize you’re part of the problem.
Black people aren’t fighting against white people but we are fighting against whiteness and all white people are infected with whiteness, including you. There’s nothing wrong with that unless you are unwilling to recognize it.
I hate the phrase “toxic masculinity” but, as a straight, heterosexual male, I am aware that society has indoctrinated me with sexist and homophobic tendencies that I have subconsciously absorbed. Acknowledging that your prejudices exist and working to eradicate the manifestation of this social privilege is the key to understanding how to fight prejudice in the larger society.
8. Weaponize your privilege.
I’m an angry Black supremacist who is naturally less intelligent and prone to criminality and a victim mentality. I truly enjoy living on the Democratic plantation but receiving so many government handouts makes me prone to the Marxist ideology of Black Lives Matter, which convinced me to hate the anthem, the troops and the flag. If I die, it’s just another dead thug.
You, on the other hand, are a well-respected member of the superior race. Privilege has afforded you a seat at the table. Use it to dismantle an unjust system.
Use Black-owned businesses. Ask why there isn’t a single Black person on the board of your charity. Put trans people in positions of power. Normalize diversity by not talking about diversity but by diversifying every space you can.
9. Shut up.
I know that you believe that you’re not like all the other white people but trust me—every white person thinks they’re not like all the other white people. They’re usually wrong.
We already know what white people think. Black people hear white voices centered in every conversation. Take the opportunity to learn what other people think.
10. It’s probably not going to work.
I don’t want to disappoint you but you’re not going to wake up tomorrow and hear breaking news that white people have finally decided to stop being racist. There will be no instantaneous shift in the collective American conscience. Even MLK knew that “privileged groups never give up their privileges voluntarily.”
But if there is a single good white person in all of America, then there is the possibility that there can be two; then four; then eight...
Or maybe Anne Frank is right and America is filled with people who just haven’t figured out how to translate their goodness into actions and they are about to prove me wrong. I hope I’m wrong.
But in my heart...