Last week a white person asked if my “still being angry about Ahmaud was because I used to be married to a black man.” And I’m so privileged I was shocked they asked, and appalled at the notion that horror over the loss of his life should have a time limit.
I replied, “I think about him every time another black man is profiled or killed, and regularly hope he’s safe. That said, I unlearned a lot about growing up white while having a front row seat to countless times he was deemed “safe” because “he’s articulate, educated, and soft spoken.” And racism and white fragility played painful, prevalent roles in our divorce being so public, when “to get ahead of the race thing,” white colleagues handed our personal story to news outlets. I hope I would have the desire to constantly unlearn white supremacy saturated society regardless. I hope I would value black lives regardless. But I also can’t separate my unlearning from having been in that relationship for a decade.”
Because Amy Cooper.
Were her actions wrong? Absolutely. Was her reaction unique? Not at all. Aside from her $170K salary, she’s every yoga pants wearing, rescue pet owning, liberal white woman. She did exactly what white supremacy society taught us: fear black men for no reason. We all carry what we’ve been taught and we all carry bias. For my white sisters who have said, “I would never,” I’m with you in sincerely hope that’s true. However, her enactment was documented when our learned behaviors and bias of the day were not.
I thank everything holy Christian Cooper is safe and alive; People of Color already bear unacceptable burdens of preventable grief without yet another innocent execution. And I pray God-parent of us all-provides comfort beyond all imaginable comprehension to victims and families who are “weeping and refusing to be consoled because their children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)
As for the Amy Coopers, it’s mandatory we keep unlearning white supremacy, and everything else that deems any human inferior to another.
On the days we think we are doing better or doing enough, may we watch Mr. Cooper’s video (that he should have never had to take, but we all know who would have been believed otherwise) again as a mirror to say, “Nope, not yet. Until the burdens of proof and education for white folks are no longer on victims of racism, try again.”
We weren’t born with hate. Hate is taught. And white people have every opportunity to unlearn the system of supremacy. If we choose not to, we are actively and intentionally choosing not to value the image of God in every single face. We are choosing to steal the very breath God infused in every pair of lungs. If you’re white, what are you doing daily to ensure our siblings aren’t suffocated by fear or paralyzed by our sins? Because the “blood on the leaves”* is from our hands. And mere hand washing is only an appropriate response when its purpose is to stop the spread of germs. White washing history and the pandemic of racism must be eviscerated. Use your power for good.
*Nina Simone, Strange Fruit