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RACE MATTERS

Why White People Need to Stop Black-Friending Issues

It’s an annoying habit that actively denigrates the opinions and work of other Black and Brown people

By Rishawn Riddle | Dropout Nation

Just because some Black folks support your scheme doesn’t mean they do so for the same reasons. Often, they are trying to make a White-oriented scheme work as well as possible for Black folks in a white supremacist nation. 

So, stop Black-friending them.

One of the annoying tendencies of White conservatives and Center-Whites is to cite a few Black folks speaking favorably about something they support in order to denigrate the opinions of other Black and Brown people. They do this because, in their minds, it neutralizes the question of whether a particular plan is harmful to other Black people. Especially when talking to other White people. 

Yet it doesn’t work the way they think it does.

For one thing, what those White folks never consider is that Black people don’t tell you everything they are thinking. For example: why support Opportunity Zones when you know that it is unlikely to benefit most Black and Brown folks in your community?

Most Black folks start from the assumption that America is a white supremacist nation. The sociopolitical and socioeconomic frameworks aren’t built for us. The institutions and laws are hardwired to do nothing for us. So we have to figure out how to get something out of it.

Not Our “Opportunity Zones” 

In the case of Opportunity Zones legislation you figure, “yeah, this is some rich White people garbage here.” But those wealthy White folks may put a little bit of money into Black communities, if not directly through subcontracts for project development then indirectly through donations to some institutions that are working in Black and Latino communities near the project. It is garbage, yes … “but if I can get a little something out of it for my people, then maybe I can go with it.

This doesn’t mean that this particular Black person is enthusiastic about it. Chances are if it came from some donor then it just becomes a mechanical thing to do in order to stay in office. Or that she thinks it will do anything good for Black folks. Probably not. But in a White Supremacist nation, sometimes you go with trash because it’s the only way that Black folks may have a chance to get some gold and then use that for self-determination and building our communities. In other words, it’s not about what White people think.

White folks often don’t think about that when they cite some Black person as a supporter of a thing. It’s almost as if they don’t pay attention to what Black people do or the history of other times when Black politicians just went along because there were no other options. Of course, for White folks, the real reasons why Black people support something doesn’t matter anyway. What they want is cover to do some stuff that most other Black people either oppose or look at skeptically. The need for that ‘one Black friend‘, basically.

Black friend‘ says this. ‘Black friend‘ says that. “I can’t be racist because I have Joe as my Black friend.” It happens a lot in many non-political situations. [Note that I’m not saying there aren’t real interracial friendships; I have a few.] But it also happens in politics.

The point is that a lot of White folks like using Black people as props for some scheme that those folks don’t support for the same reasons (and, privately, think is hot garbage). Which means White folks, may want to think twice before citing someone like, say, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for something (see Booker’s statement back in October here) …

More importantly, if you support something that some Black people also support and it turns out that the reasons are different than yours – and driven by the reality of how Black folks are marginalized in America – it may be time for you to rethink what you believe.

School Choice (We’re Still Stuck) 

By the way: My point applies to so many other issues. A lot of Black folks, for example, support school choice. But not because of those “opportunity” and “free ourselves” from government arguments promoted by White conservatives and libertarians. Not at all. Black folks who support school choice, be they the full range of vouchers or charters, or just charters and intradistrict choice, do so primarily because American public education has damaged generations of Black (as well as Brown) children.

Black folks support public education. They prefer public education as a communal thing, with communities and families controlling the means by which kids are educated. The problem is that in most cases, Black folks don’t control public school systems that aren’t charters. Even when we do, White women are primarily the ones teaching our kids because of systemic white supremacy, including certification tests that keep Black people out of teaching.

Given that white supremacy makes traditional districts oppressive regimes where our children’s minds and bodies are policed, threatened, and starved of high-quality education, we are stuck with either remaining in that which harms us or availing ourselves of something else.

So at least half of us will support school choice of some sort. Do we believe that it is always the best? No. We know about the private schools that can be just as white supremacist, policing our kids’ hairstyles and dress. We know about Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy…who’s reputation as a place of stifling Blackness is known. We know that a lot of charters and private schools, like a lot of traditional district schools, are hot garbage. But again, we are trying to do our best in a white supremacist nation. Which makes things hard.

Which means that if you are White and also support school choice, you should be careful in saying “hey, Black people support it, too.” Stop Black-friending. Because if you really think about it, you would realize that the problem is white supremacy – and you should fight that.

The Great Reopen Divide

Reopeners should stop citing some situation in which Black people support reopening school buildings. Guess what? Their reasons aren’t the same as yours. Black folks know for real that a lack of education is far more damaging to their kids than it is to yours.

Folks opposed to reopening need to be careful, too. Black folks would send their kids back into school buildings if everything was safe and we didn’t live in a white supremacist nation in which we are either slaves or guinea pigs like Black farmers in the Tuskegee Experiment. If you want to really be an ally of Black and Brown people, stop looking to use them as props for some nonsense you’re selling. Listen and echo the arguments they make and look deeper to address the issues being raised in those statements.

So instead of arguing that ‘school buildings should be reopened,’ argue for expanding healthcare and more money for schools to improve virtual learning and to reopen buildings when it is safe to do so.

Instead of arguing for ‘school choice’‘ demand community control of education so that Black folks can provide culturally relevant education. Also argue for eliminating teacher certification rules and ending property tax-based funding of schools.

Instead of talking about ‘opportunity zones,‘ address employment discrimination, redlining, systemic refusal to provide loans and funding to Black and Latino-run small businesses.

If you are not dealing with white supremacy and how it makes life for Black as well as Latino and Indigenous people oppressive as hell, then don’t Black-friend folks. We’re not your props.

Or, to quote the old joke: “What do you mean we?

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