I have always been puzzled by my friendship with White people. Not because I question how genuine they are or the love I have for them and they for me, but by the contradictions that emerge in the existence of our friendship, with all of history behind each of us, a history that has a death in every second of it.
White Supremacy is the reality of our world, my world. Many White people are unaware of this toxic air, many of the White people I know are still oblivious to White Supremacy’s engulfing, violent, oppressive presence. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about my White brothers, sisters, kin, those who I consider closest to me heart and soul, those who I would defend with all my strength, those I love and who love me.
I have a belief when it comes to my White friends, a belief that has brought low a hellish hate I once had for all White bodies, that has brought me a strange serenity, and it is this; with my White friends, behind the doors of our homes, in the solitude of our embraces, race does not matter. Those closest to me see me as I am, and I them. But Race is all that matters too. Because once we walk outside that door, enter the world where we exist with every other body, I am suddenly stripped of my humanity while they maintain theirs. Both statements are true, and I believe this. But it puzzles me, frustrates me, and this serenity sometimes gives way to rage.
I do not pretend that we are not complex. What of the White Women I call sisters? Surely, as a Man who benefits from patriarchy I stand with power over them. But that does not take away from their Whiteness, their gendered Whiteness, or my gendered Browness. But I cannot explain it all, and those contradictions, I admit, are lost on me sometimes, as my male privilege does well to make me forget them, but I am trying.
Even so, there is a turmoil in this love I have. Race is everything and nothing. I see them and they see me, but they also see me as they have been trained to do so, with spite, with a rigid superiority, with a doubt that my voice is a sinister villain seducing them to betray their own race-kin. I do not fool myself in thinking that race does not matter when they see me. It does, it should, but it also doesn’t, and it shouldn’t. A crossroads with no roads, only a desert mist with nothing and everything.
These friendships have not been easy, they aren’t easy, none ever are. But in these I have grayer shadows scratch unto me a discomfort, swallow me sometimes, in parts and whole, where I wonder how much White Supremacy has latched unto them and clouded their eyes. Do they see me as fully human, as fully complex, as fully me, despite centuries of a lying truth telling them I was not worthy of any love? When I speak, do they really listen? When I speak, do they try to understand? When I speak, do they know who is speaking?
They are not perfect, no one is. And they have tried, I think, and sometimes I know, to break their white lenses and through the fog embrace me. And yet, sometimes they don’t listen, sometimes they revert back to their old eyes and I feel lost, unloved, shattered, misunderstood, I feel like the “other” Whiteness meant for me to be. Sometimes my heart breaks at their inability to overcome it, overcome history, overcome themselves.
I do nothing.
Because I am afraid of their Whiteness, and it is not to say I am also unafraid, but for so long we have been told we are empty vessels incapable of emotion, I have decided now I will not ignore fear, anger, or joy. My silence sometimes, while on that living room couch, over Skype, drinking coffee, at a party, is because I am afraid, like any of us can be. If you were a stranger, I would not care, but for those I love, for those I would defend with all I am, with those I wish to see grow old and wise, when your racism resurges, when your words bite me and my families and my ancestors and my graves, my bravery quickly dissolves into confusion. Not because I cannot be honest, but because I wonder how one who loves me cannot see themselves so easily fall again into the logic of racism. You label yourself an ally, but you do not act like one.
These bites and cuts and bruises are small sometimes, but they can make me bleed heavy, and they come in the most unexpected ways. You do not say “nigger” or “spic”, but you tell me to calm down, that my anger is unjustified, question my motivations, offer an opinion and speak over my voice when I come to you frustrated. You stay silent in front of others when they do call me “spic” or tell me racism doesn’t exist or that I have not experienced violence. You do not offer a radical expression of love through radical practice – you exempt yourself from thinking you are racist and not like “those White people” when that misses the point entirely. When I go into battle, you attempt to numb my fire and dull my sword, telling me now isn’t the time, instead of bringing me a shield or picking up your own sword and going into battle with me. And so I stay silent, wanting to speak, but sometimes I wonder, why speak if so many times you have not heard my roars?
Our friendship is not about race and my/our struggle to eradicate it. We are more complicated than that. We are friends because of our respective universes, our solidarity, our inexplicable bond of spirit. But race matters in every breathe we take, wether we like it or not. And this letter does not take away from the love I have for you and you for me. This letter is not an indictment. This letter is not trying to destroy what we have. It is only trying to make it better.
White Supremacy did not mean for us to speak, to know each other, to shake hands, to laugh, to explore the secrets of the universe and smile and be brother and sister and kind. White Supremacy dies and rots every time we take a selfie and laugh together and cry together. Not long ago we were not possible. But that does not mean White Supremacy isn’t trying to dissolve this beautiful thing, to rip us apart, to remake the chasm that once divided us. That does not mean you cannot do better, you cannot radicalize your white lens and destroy what remains of the toxic racism that sometimes looks me in the eye and tells me what we have will one day become dust.
One day, I will question your love for me, I will test your solidarity, I will challenge your sincerity and ask you to walk by my side. And when I do, remember, listen to me, as hard as you can, and that what I do is not an attack, but it is a manifestation of our bond, a trial of the bridges we have built and walk on. It is us.
I love you, with all these contradictions, and I will not let that go. I will defend you, because you are my brother, my sister, my best friend, my ride or die. And I am not perfect, nor are you. We are not perfect. This friendship is not perfect. But that is why I wrote this. Because together, we can fuck this shit up.
Love you, homie.