Dear White Sister

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disiree-adaway-solidarity5

Dear White Sister,

It is time we have a heart to heart. We need to talk about race. I know. You may not want to talk about it, especially with a black woman, but we need this to happen if we are going to move forward.

I need you to really listen.

Your fear of conflict helps keep the status quo. Your desire for niceness is literally helping to keep me unsafe.

Your need to equate raising a difficult issue, like white supremacy, with being impolite or rude or out of line helps keep white supremacy securely in place.

When people on the margins don’t speak in a language or tone you find acceptable, you use that as an excuse to not address the issue at all.

I know you have thought it.

Why did they have to use those words.

Why must they protest that way?

Who gets to decide what is nice and acceptable? Who decides what is palatable?

You have been fed the lie that you have the right to emotional and psychological comfort over my freedom from an oppressive system.

That is just not true.

If I can walk down the street literally scared for my wellbeing and other black people every day, then you can be uncomfortable and have difficult conversations about race.

If I can watch black bodies being destroyed every day, then you can risk being wrong or making a mistake when talking about race.

You won’t die from anger, guilt or criticism. You may FEEL unsafe.

I literally am unsafe.

This may seem harsh, but I want you to understand what I feel every day, not to punish or shame you, but to share with you the urgency of this struggle.

Do you have any idea how many times a day black folks feel unsafe and unwelcome as they navigate their world? When they go get coffee at the local coffee shop, when they catch the bus to work, when they get followed around the pharmacy, when they walk home from work, when they drive to the laundromat.

Of course you don’t. I actually don’t want you to. I don’t wish this on anyone.

This system is broken and y’all can fix it. White women can fix it. Y’all can fix it by helping to dismantle a system you benefit from. How, you ask?

You do that by stop valuing control and comfort. They have become idols of the middle class

You do it by speaking up in all white spaces. You do it by calling out anti-blackness language and behavior everywhere you see it, every time you see it. At work. At home. At church.

Value justice and kindness. Value love and compassion. Value sacrifice. Value difficult conversations. We do not live in a frictionless society, what are you willing to sacrifice to help your brown brothers and sisters find liberation?

I invite you to stand with me.

So when you hear me talk about white supremacy I am not calling you, the white individual, a white supremacist.

When you hear me talk about racism I am not calling you, the white individual, a racist.

I am talking about systems that are built upon a hierarchy that you benefit from.

Learn to deal with the pain and stress of these conservations and these terms.

Because if I am being honest I actually don’t care about the subjectivity of you being a good or bad person.

I don’t care about your collective feelings.

I care about fighting oppression and getting free.

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Desiree Adaway
Desiree is a consultant, strategist, coach, speaker, storyteller and explorer. She uses her superpowers–her voice, sense of adventure and belief in the transformative power of community–to help organizations design programs that create unrestricted revenue, volunteers and advocates. You can find out more about her at www.desireeadaway.com, or follow her on Twitter at @desireeadaway
Desiree Adaway
Desiree Adaway

Latest posts by Desiree Adaway (see all)

Desiree Adaway
  • Ivy Whisper

    Bravo. Thank you for your love. Thank you for the teaching. Your life absolutely matters to me. This is all bullshit and the sooner white women can unlearn and dis identify with the lies we have been taught the sooner we can: save lives, save quality of lives, all get free.
    Love you!
    Ivy

    • Desiree Adaway

      I love you Ivy!

    • 40 ACRES & A KARDASHIAN

      “This is all bullshit”

      I couldn’t have summed up this article any better.

  • Saskia Wishart

    This post. It’s so good, I almost don’t want to comment because I don’t know if there is anything I can say, except – thank you for showing up here and calling out truth.

    “You have been fed the lie that you have the right to emotional and psychological comfort over my freedom from an oppressive system.” That will be ringing in my ears for a while I am sure.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thanks for your kind words.

  • Yes! Thank you for these words and for the call to vocally stand with you.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Glad it ressonates

  • I love what you said about having the difficult conversations. I think that’s one huge problem with today’s culture. No one wants to feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to get our of our comfort zones and risk offending people. It’s a shame because without those conversations we cannot have change. While I cannot even begin to relate to what America’s black communities are facing in today’s world, I do know that it’s articles like this, articles written with tough truth but seasoned with love, and people like you who aren’t hateful about confronting white women about what we need to be doing to help but rather you are passionate about actually bridging the gap and fixing the issue…it’s this that will change the issue of racism and hate that America is dealing with. While I’ve never “seen color” as some people say (I grew up in a very multicultural community) I am realizing lately how ignorant I am to this issue. I’m not perfect, but I AM trying to be more intentional about changing my own actions and perceptions about other people. People like you are helping to open my eyes, for this I am grateful.

    • Desiree Adaway

      It starts with awareness, thanks for doing the work.

  • Yes. It is a myth that if we simply stop talking about race then all the struggles will disappear. The truth is that conversations about race need to happen so that we can learn to put our faith in action.

    Apathy, silence, and racism are linked, and they are enemies of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Kingdom of God.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Apathy and silence are deadly killers and not how we should be living our lives.

  • Desiree, thank you for your courage and kindness to motivate us and encourage us to begin our own conversations. We must step past our own white privilege to initiate honest conversations in love that we might educate ourselves, heal our relationships and transform our own communities.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thank you!

  • All I can say is thank you and sharing.

    • And I have no clue why my current profile pic didn’t show up

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thank you for being open

  • Jamie

    This especially struck me: “If I can watch black bodies being destroyed every day, then you can risk being wrong or making a mistake when talking about race.” I want to help, to have those difficult conversations, but I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. But I’m learning and taking words like these to heart for sure. Thank you for this, very much.

    • Kim M. Williams

      Jamie, part of your fear is because you don’t know how we will respond. There has to be responsibility on both sides to further this discussion. It’s just a hard discussion but if we share with love then maybe we can get through it. Keep trying we’ll finally get there.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thanks for doing the work. Being an ally does not mean you wont make a mistake it just means you understand your responsibility in helping bring down this system

    • Kara Dansky

      This is a real and genuine fear that many white folks experience. One Thousand Arms works with white folks who are sincerely interested in examining our own racism and in having these difficult conversations. Please check us out if you are inspired to do so! https://www.facebook.com/onethousandarms/

      • Jamie

        Thank you Kara, I will.

  • So grateful for your voice. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thanks, sis.

  • Sarah Joslyn

    I’m here for this.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thanks ! 🙂

  • Standing with you. Thank you for sharing. Grateful for your work and heart.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thank you.

  • I accept your invitation and stand with you. I can and will do more to be part of the solution, not the problem. Thank you for this beautiful and brave truth of a letter.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thank you. I believe that we will win

  • Standing with you. For so long we haven’t because our steps seem so small, so unable to make a difference. I have had some hard conversations lately in my own family and it is time to have them. I am seeing small changes in openness, in people willing to hear. Small steps. But they are steps. Thank you for helping us take them.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Small steps are better than no steps. I appreciate any positive action

  • Stephanie Thompson

    Your voice speaks straight to the heart of the tension:”You have been fed the lie that you have the right to emotional and psychological comfort over my freedom from an oppressive system.” It serves as a reminder to myself as I continue to seek to stand for racial injustice. I am always trying to bring new voices to the discussions with my white friends and this holds nothing back. Thank you for that.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thank you for reading!

  • Katherine

    Thank you. I will stand and listen and have those conversations. The generation above me watched the civil rights movement of the 60’s and feel it’s been done. We don’t understand the years since, all that is not done; there are generations and generations of pain, we can’t sit on white privledge and justify away what is still happening. I grieve for all those before who sacrificed their lives and safety to march and speak up in the past. I went to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and learned so much, why isn’t this curriculum in every school? I pray for healing and commit to making these conversations with my white and black friends.

    • Desiree Adaway

      It is our job to educate ourselves.Our schools, all of our instituitions are part of this system and the problem

  • Marika

    You spoke my heart. And thanks to the SheLoves team for giving you and this article a voice!

    • Desiree Adaway

      You are welcome!

  • Kara Dansky

    This is so beautiful, thank you. FWIW, One Thousand Arms is an organization that works with white folks who are sincerely interested in examining our own racism. Please check us out if you are inspired to do so! https://www.facebook.com/onethousandarms/

  • pastordt

    Oh, YES. Thank you for this frank, honest, true post. Thank you.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thank you !

  • Well written. Thank you for penning this. It must not have been without emotion.

    What I have found the most difficult with taking a stand is not other white people’s reactions, but those of black people who don’t know me. The criticism is harsh. Is it because of mistrust? I don’t know.

    It’s such a difficult issue. Thanks for using your voice. I truly hope we get to see the end of this senseless hatred in this generation.

    • Desiree Adaway

      Mistrust could be a reason, which is why building relationships is a critical part of this work. I go back to what I said in the post– having feelings hurt is not the same as being in danger. We all have to push ourselves to do this work

      • Agreed. Nothing to worry about though, having my feelings hurt won’t stop me.

  • Another great resource for fellow white ladies reading this post: Catrice Jackson’s book titled “Antagonists, Advocates and Allies” http://www.shetalkswetalk.com/Products.html

    • Desiree Adaway

      Thanks for this resource!

  • Helen Louise

    Dear Black Sister,

    I’ve read and studied your communication. Just as I might not be acquainted with all blacks, you are obviously not acquainted with all whites. Just as I must realize not all blacks are out to kill each other in their neighborhoods, not all whites think or believe what you apparently believe they think or believe.

    Following a litany of what you say are my fears and needs as well as what I may not wish to do, you say this: “I know you have thought it.”

    A mind reader you are not, because I and perhaps a majority of white sisters have not thought it. Please accept this truth.

    You believe and stated: “You have been fed the lie that you have the right to emotional and psychological comfort over my freedom from an oppressive system.” No, Black Sister, I have not been fed such a lie. Not only have I not been fed it, I’ve not heard it.

    As to your statement, “If I can walk down the street literally scared for my well being and other black people every day,” I have to believe you live in an urban black neighborhood where the murder rates are off the charts.

    As to your comment, “If I can watch black bodies being destroyed every day,” once again I must assume you are living in a poor black urban community where men, women, and children are either randomly or determinedly shot.

    When you say, “You won’t die from anger, guilt or criticism. You may FEEL unsafe. I literally am unsafe.,” I read the newspapers and how the black on black crime is more than all other races combined, I understand why you feel unsafe.

    I do not feel either shame or punishment when you say, “This may seem harsh, but I want you to understand what I feel every day, not to punish or shame you,” but I feel sorrow and pity for you that you have to live in such danger among people who look like you. No, I don’t have to live with such a fear.

    You seem to be telling me, “This system is broken and y’all can fix it. White women can fix it. Y’all can fix it by helping to dismantle a system you benefit from. How, you ask?” The rest of us live under the same laws and are stopped when we break those laws, and it appears the stats prove more whites have been killed by police than blacks, but no one protests and a big deal isn’t made of it because we sense they were involved in crimes or behaviors that were very risky.

    You tell me, “You do it by calling out anti-blackness language and behavior everywhere you see it, every time you see it. At work. At home. At church.” I’m here to tell you that I am not associated with anyone at work, at home, or at church that communicates anti-blackness language and behavior.

    “Value justice and kindness. Value love and compassion. Value sacrifice. Value difficult conversations.” I and my family and friends already value these. My African American friends are free, are succeeding as well if not more than me. There is a large middle class and even wealthy class of black Americans. They are doing so well because of their hard work and achievements. Whether in white communities or black communities, there are different classes and people who are encouraged morally and achievement-wise. Opportunities do vary in both communities. Life is not always fair, but we believe that is because sin is present in all classes and races and ethnicities that account for this.

    You began your communication stating a litany of what you think I’ve been taught or think, and said, “I know you have thought it.”

    I hope you will believe me and know I and many more of us have not thought it.

    Dear Black Sister, read carefully, pray to God to open your heart and take away the race-related prejudices you hold against another race of people that are no more true than any race-related prejudices against your people. Negatively stereotyping whole races of people is racism. Ask God to fill your heart with love and compassion for all people, all races, and continue to work toward true justice and equality for all. I in turn will continue to be sensitive to those incidents that are unfair to anyone of another race, ethnicity, creed, or class.

    Sincerely,

    One of your white sisters

    • Desiree Adaway

      I am clear about what I said and how I said it. I stand by it.

      • Helen Louise

        And I am clear in my response and stand by it. There can be no dialogue when there are accusations about any race that are negative and all inclusive. When we start listening to one another, there can be dialogue. But it can’t be one-way.

    • webejustsayin

      Well said. It takes TWO.

    • FlSam

      What a load of passive-aggressive twaddle, Helen. Desiree speaks TRUTH and for you to not only get all snarky and use the same structure of her writing to make your point while mocking her, your thinly veiled anger at being told “what you think” is quite hypocritical, considering your screed was full of the same old stale, worn out stereotypical assumptions so many whites believe about POC who speak out about fearing for their safety 24/7. Clearly, you cannot handle the mirror being held up to you because your privilege blinders are snapped far too firmly in place and what’s even more pathetic, after all that passive-aggressive anger seething out of you, you have the audacity to then condescendingly tell HER to ask God to fill her heart with love and compassion. Despite all your hollow religious platitudes, you wouldn’t know real love and compassion if they bit you on the nose. You are grabbing at straw men to justify your anger and self-righteous indignation, then topping it off with God to seal the toxic, passive-aggressive deal so you can convince yourself that YOU are the morally correct one. I’d love to think that someday you might shed the scales of whatever blind, biased influences that have shaped you and instead see things as they really are, but based on what you have posted, that is unlikely to ever happen. And THAT is truly tragic.

  • Jennifer

    I read the article. As a black women, I must say, I disagree with mostly all of it. White women do not owe me anything. I am not oppressed by them, white men or anyone else. I do not feel like a second class citizen. As a matter of fact, I have a lot of white friends. Have worked for many white people in their homes as well as other ethical groups. I have not been deprived of anything because I am black. NOTHING. I have 2 degrees and working towards one day getting my PH.D (sidenote: more black women are getting their MA’s and PH.D’s at a faster rate than any other group in this country). I have good credit because I learn how to manage my money, with God’s wisdom and guidance. Have a good career, own my own car, the second one I have owned with no payments, and working towards home ownership. What is this privilege that you speak of? I have never felt scared of white people or felt that I had to “watch my back” because something may happen to me. This is simply not the case. Our generation is one of the most DIVERS generations since the beginning of time. I feel that this article is taking us back as a society and nation. While there is a lot to be done with how people still treat each other, black youth today have no clue what it is really like to be oppressed in this nation. We have no clue how far we have come as a nation. But to insist that white women owe me something as a black women is not the case. We can all sit together at the table of love with everyone of different backgrounds and be friends share commonalities with one another, and speak out when anyone is being talked down about among others.

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