Aundrea Sayrie: Normalize talking about racism

Genuine question.

Is the topic of racism discussed in White households? Is it part of the parental conversation starter package like the birds and the bees, emergency preparedness plans, spirituality, etc. etc.? Nothing dramatic, just an informed, casual conversation?

For example, in Black households conversations surrounding racism are built into mundane tasks. Brushing my daughter’s hair includes positive affirmations about the texture of her hair, and the color of her skin, physicality, her intelligence, and talents, and the ever so gentle and occasional reminder that sometimes people like us are picked on or judged for these things. Of course I do not leave it there but equip her with confident rebuttals. Not “just in case” she needs them, but for the day that she will.

When my son wants to walk the corner store, or anywhere else for that matter, I speed through the reminders while giving him the once over.  “Take your hoodie off of your head, that’s ‘suspicious.’ Do not put your hands in your pockets. That’s suspicious. Do not jaywalk, remember Mike Brown? Do not, do not, do NOT forget to ask for a receipt.” You know, for proof of purchase if ever accused of theft, or worse, in case he’s an ever in need of an alibi for his location on this and that day and time. 

For him…Just in case.

There are words of caution for my husband too. A big and tall man with an intelligent opinion, unarmed and yet “dangerous.” I do these things in hopes of reuniting my entire family at the end of every day. I send them out on a prayer and I wait.

Navigating racism is protocol in Black homes because a misstep could be the difference between life and death in every form of the word. If you’re willing to imagine, this can leave a person feeling depleted after a while. Eventually living under this extra weight causes you to mature to a place where you begin to understand that living this way is problematic. You begin to question and push back. What do you do when you realize that you have a problem?

You look for a solution. It would seem that the obvious approach when there is a division between two parties would be open communication.

In the experience of many Black Americans, when the topic of racism is brought up to a White person, instead of a productive and transactional conversation, we are silenced via avoidance of the conversation. Often hearing things like;

“One of my best friends are Black” (So then you understand why this conversation is important?)

“My parents taught me to treat everyone with kindness.” (Really. Racists too?)

“Why does everything have to be about race?” (Uuuuuuuhhhh?)

“That was so long ago racism doesn’t exist today.” (Hate crimes are in the news every day.)

And the one I REALLY, really don’t like…

“I don’t see color.”

All of the colors on God’s beautiful earth and you don’t see color? You do not see melanin? Like, at all?

If you don’t want to help dismantle the system you benefit from, just say that.

Responses like these are not only dismissive of the matters at hand but makes me wonder if racism is ever spoken about in White households?

I do not understand these reactions to non-accusatory statements. How is initiating a conversation about racism deduced to divisive rhetoric? Is it willful ignorance? Banning books and Critical Race Theory from the classroom doesn’t mean The Devil’s Punchbowl doesn’t exist. That’s not how that works. 

I’ve noticed a tendency to embrace individualism and distancing when it comes to repairing the works of the forefathers but complete acceptance of the benefits they provide. So then is it a resistance to self reflection? It’s as if the one time Whiteness is not centered is when racism is brought  up.

Silencing victims is a characteristic of abusers. Not speaking out makes matters worse by prohibiting access to resources. There are true allies in the field making magic happen and always have been. If that’s you, thank you, keep doing good work. 

If that’s not you, what causes you to shutdown at the slightest hint of progress toward equality?

Is it internalized racism? Racism mutates and adapts to its environment, and maybe, just maybe, you are incapable of recognizing your contributions to racism on your own. It’s not about being anti-White, or revenge, other excuses I have heard. It’s that Black people and people of color have to navigate racism every day and White fragility is a hindrance to progress.

Throw the entire rolodex of excuses away, and let’s have the conversation already.

A native of Phoenix, Arizona Aundrea Sayrie is a firm believer in the power of words, faith and a strong spirit. Her greatest desire is to encourage those around her to discover and honor their truth, and to passionately live on purpose.