Great news! There’s a vaccine for racism!
According to some people, eradicating the scourge of discrimination, white supremacy and oppression is easy. The Caucasian cure for systemic inequality involves the simple task of ignoring the issue, pretending it doesn’t exist and shutting the fuck up until the problem magically dissipates into thin air. While naysayers may point out that this delusory solution didn’t quite work for slavery, Jim Crow or the Minnesotans whose windpipes may have been obstructed by a policeman’s knee, we are assured that this is a safe and effective treatment for racism.
Of course, this hypothetical therapeutic comes from people who have never actually been affected by racism. Still, the people who created, perpetuate and spread the racism virus insist that it will work. Simply put, if you or someone you know have been affected by racism, just shut the fuck up.
There are others, however, who think there might be a better way.
In December, author Frederick Joseph released The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, which shared “race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now.” The New York Times Instant Bestseller also included personal perspectives from prominent artists and activists such as Jemele Hill, April Reign and others. The book inspired 17-year-old Taylor Richardson to start a campaign to get kids to read Joseph’s work.
Richardson, one of The Root’s 2018 Young Futurists, is known for starting fundraisers to share the work of Black artists and creatives with children around the world, including the #HiddenFiguresChallenge, #AWrinkleInTimeChallenge and her #BlackGirlsLEADChallenge. Her reading initiative has donated 2,000 books to children everywhere. So when the Jacksonville Public Library system stocked The Black Friend at their 21 local libraries, partly because of Richardson, it didn’t seem like a controversial decision.
Richardson even organized a virtual chat with Joseph for the Jacksonville Public Library system and made it available to anyone who wanted to attend. To be clear, the city of Jacksonville didn’t propose to round up all the little white kids, march them to the local library and make them read the book. In fact, every parent in Jacksonville had the option of doing the things they did every day, including not attending the event that was, again, about having a Black friend.
However, white people refused to put up with this B.S. At a town hall last week, Jacksonville residents spoke out against their city’s effort to indoctrinate their children with this anti-racist nonsense.
“This past weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis said we will not teach critical race theory in our schools because it is hateful, it is contrary to Dr. King’s message and it divides people,” said one pro-racism advocate. “Yet tomorrow, the public library is having a Zoom program. Frederick Joseph, the author of The Black Friend: How to be a Better White Person. Imagine what would happen if you had a white person or a white man stand up and say ‘A white man or a white woman on being a better white person.’”
Allow me to answer that question.
I can’t imagine what that would be like because I don’t have to. I can just turn on Tucker Carlson or listen to white people talk about Black-on-Black crime, not resisting and why we need to focus on education. But, as an educated negro who somehow resists Black-on-Black crime-ing, I use a novel approach known as “minding my own damned business.”
However, unlike this man who was subjected to the egregious inhumanity of being called a “cracker” one time, I recognize that I may be biased. Because I can’t understand why anyone would object to anyone learning how to be a better person, I decided to ask someone who may have a better perspective.
“It wasn’t surprising,” Frederick Joseph told The Root. “I get death threats and things like that on a regular basis. I think what was surprising in seeing it, um, was that it was done in this space of criticizing a child really. I mean, Taylor is, 16 or 17 years old but, for all intents and purposes, she’s still a child. But people are so entitled in their white supremacy and conditioning within white supremacy that they don’t even see her youth as being something that they should consider. Or her safety, quite frankly.”
“There were many feelings that arose in me after seeing the video,” Taylor Richardson told The Root. “People want all the books I donated removed from the libraries locally and want to pull the chat next week.”
But the backlash wasn’t confined to this one meeting. Anti-racism-resistant whites took to social media to share their discontent with the horror of not having to read a book that they don’t want to read.
“You know, it’s ironic that one of the things that white people hate more than anything is being called racist,” Joseph explained. “We see [people say] ‘I’m not racist; you are,’ while perpetuating racism actively. Because being called a racist has much more reflection on who you are. And you can’t really argue it if the person who’s receiving it says that you’re doing it. So it seems like in every other system, in every other way, white people get to decide who, what, where, why and when, except when it comes to racism. And they don’t like that.”
However, unlike the angry adults who swear they aren’t racist, Richardson’s response to the controversy was to rise above it, as the teenager explained:
One thing that never was an option was giving up and bowing down to ignorance. With this platform on social media comes the responsibility to expose injustices around you. The Black Friend, for me, has made me feel seen and heard. It’s why to date I have donated over 2000 books to people all around the world. In hopes that we all will take a look in the mirror and make change.”
She still hopes that people will join the online event with the Jacksonville Public Library. Of course, being a high school student, an activist, and a future astronaut, Richardson might be unaware that, according to her white counterparts, white supremacy is the only substance in the known universe that can be destroyed by ignoring it.
“You know, James Baldwin said: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” Richardson noted, to which a grown-ass man replied.