What’s the Difference Between White Liberal Rhetoric and True Advocacy?

One of my oldest friends has a service job, work truck, hard hat, uniform, the whole bit. He often has to visit people at their home to do prep work before they start major projects that require digging and potentially hitting power, gas, and cable lines.

He’s told me stories about white women watching him ring their doorbells, and not responding. Like, he literally sees the curtains move as they peep out at him. Then he’ll call, they realize he’s legit, and they let him in. Like it’s so common for uniformed black men to ring your doorbell early in the morning in a pricey Chicago suburb with nefarious intent.

Once they let him it’s all apologies and lies, “Oh, I didn’t see you,” etc, gag. But lately he said the white people he’s encountered have been ridiculously friendly. Like, he’s never been offered so much water in his life. They’re so chatty it’s interfering with his work.

“I wonder if they’ll be this friendly and generous when all the heat dies down?” I asked.

He wondered that too.

I’ve been wondering that a lot lately. People, companies, brands, folks are being called out left and right for hypocrisy and for downright lying about their efforts to support the #blacklivesmatter movement. I honestly don’t know why they bother. It’s too easy these days to be found out, and then you end up like former Crossfit CEO Greg Glassman.

But it’s scary. I’m so worried that the protests will peter out, life will return to its best imitation of normal in the age of the ‘rona, and black people will realize that nothing has changed. That all these white people speaking in soft tones with apologetic eyes about how they’re here to learn and all this other phony-sounding, ridiculous nonsense, were indeed just playing it smart. That they were just pretending to care about racism and police brutality in this country because things are so bad they can’t play deaf and dumb anymore. No response these days is its own negative response, and that can be expensive.

That desire to learn and grow gambit, I’ve heard it so many times this week alone it’s like a record on a loop. My question is, what exactly have you learned in the past few weeks that you didn’t already know? Even the most clueless white person in the country, someone so safe and secure in their high-income bubble they don’t often see black people, knows that racism exists. Providing, of course, they aren’t in the “well, we had a black President. It’s fine now,” camp. George Floyd isn’t the first black man the police have murdered on camera. He’s not even the second, third or 50th. So, again I ask, what is there to learn that you didn’t already know?

I just don’t want black people – we are seriously way too nice for our own good – to be fooled by all this faux sympathy and these empty gestures. You’re kneeling on the floor of Congress in Kente cloth? Okay, can you please get up and pass some laws to benefit black people? You painted Black Lives Matter on the street in DC. So, you want people to drive over us now? Like, what’s the end game?

It’s like Steve Stoute said in a recent Fast Company interview – I love Fast Company – “every brand and agency needs an African American strategy on how to set themselves up to new expectations from society. Those things need to have KPIs, and I think their results should be published.

“And if a company isn’t up to that standard, it should be out there, and if people want to cancel them, so be it. If you’re not hiring enough African Americans, or bringing in enough African Americans into your ecosystem, then you should be canceled. Enough is enough.”

I’ve seen people, influencers, I never thought would be as engaged as they have been. People like Chriselle Lim. She’s wearing black designers, directing people to black influencers, buying her daughters black dolls to play with, she’s frickin’ serious.

I believe her when she says here to learn. There’s consistent action. It’s not a one Instagram post scenario, or a one check donation, and boom I proved I’m not a racist. I don’t expect people to protest in riot gear and shout “f the police!” but taking part in #sharethemic activities, offering lists of black companies to buy from, promoting black content creators whose followings are growing because of it. That impacts their earning potential. That’s significant. It’s real.

Even Greg Glassman. His tweets were real. His beliefs out there. We know how he feels. That’s good. But these other tricksters? These people and companies who are just going along to get along, and don’t mean a word of what they’re saying? The people whose mouths are open in faux shock as demonstrators are being brutalized, and in some cases actually dying, by the same hands they’re protesting? They’ll be the first to go right back to the status quo when the dust settles, only to be “shocked” again the next time it happens – and it will happen again. That’s terrifying to me.

I don’t want black people to get tired – ‘cuz we are tired, physically, mentally, emotionally, and every other way – and be so eager and hopeful for change that we believe this crap. We can’t. If we do, nothing will improve. Nothing, and after weeks of protests and damage and injury and death and all the rest, that’s not acceptable.

I don’t want us to believe this bull, think things are being handled, and forget what we need to do: buy black as much as humanly possible. Build you, your family, your friends, your community. Focus on: improving your health, your business, saving money, reducing your stress, your debt, securing your comfort, taking care of your children, supporting your career, your black peers’ careers and businesses. We’ve got to level up for ourselves, by ourselves.

We’ve gotta vote! Voter suppression is about to be so real this upcoming election. It’s already happening, and we have to plan ways to get around that. It’s not a situation to handle day of. We will end up on fire. And while we’re doing all that we can’t be worrying who’s smiling in our face and stabbing us straight in the back. We have to know who our real advocates are, and who’s just giving us lip service to avoid being cancelled. That dictates where we spend our money, our time, our energy, our passion.

In some cases that may mean we have to investigate to find out who people really are and what they stand for. Then, if they’re on our team, we have to hold them accountable for what they say.

Take Marie Forleo. She got herself in serious hot water recently by saying one thing and then doing another. Rachel Rodgers read her ass for filth in an Instagram post. Made me choke up she was so upset. Now Marie’s trying to make amends, but damage has been done. I’ve unfollowed her on YouTube and unsubscribed from her newsletter because I don’t want to be bothered. You’re not who you say you are. Cool, but you being sorry ain’t gon’ save or help no black lives.

I’m past the desire to forgive and forget. Or, if I do the former, the latter ain’t gonna happen. I’m interested in thriving, not just surviving, and sometimes black folks can’t even do that.

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