Words by Kristyn Potter, Founder of Chez Nous
This is a moment in history not for white people to recognize their privilege, but to take more than a moment of silence to recognize other’s pain. I can’t speak for my black brothers and sisters, all I can speak for is myself, and while I love white people using this moment to recognize how their lives have been shaped by a lack of injustice, its more important to recognize how my entire life, my mom’s life, my grandparents lives, my ancestors lives have been directly affected by the strong arm of the white man since this country began.
I’m an educated black woman who has had the opportunity to work for massive global companies while in New York City. The reason why? I think because I am college educated. Why am I college educated? Because my mom wasn’t until she was 36 and spent my whole life making sure that I knew the value of education and how much my life could be better (jobs, resources, networking) if I got a degree.
The reason I work two jobs? I’ve always worked two jobs, in fact if you count the magazine I own and Chez Nous, it comes in around four. I grew up in poverty as a child of a single mother without a college degree who worked at a daycare center. She did her absolute best to make sure we never knew how poor we were, where a shopping trip for the first-day of school was an $100 shopping spree at Kmart that I always felt guilty about, and my cool new shoes for high school were hand-me-downs from a daycare colleague of hers. When I turned 16, I vowed that once I could work, I would always have money.
I don’t pat myself on the back for ‘getting out of the system’ because as long as the system exists, I will be angry. When I see my black friends working multiple jobs, or selling drugs because they make more money on drugs than an hourly-wage job, I will be angry. When I see people getting arrested for protesting, which means having a police record which will stop them for getting a good job in the future, I’m angry. When I think about the fact that my grandma went to a ‘white school’ and her sister went to the black school because she was too dark, I’m angry. When I remember white sorority sisters asking me how I do my hair (I blow dry it and flat iron it the same way as you), I’m angry. When I’m crying on work calls and feeling like giving up because for the past 31 years I’ve experienced the effects of racism in my life and my community, I’m angry.
At this moment there is very little that could make me happy. Except a paradigm shift in America.
I don’t want to make my Instagram feed blacked out for a day and then next week go back to posting—and seeing—selfies. I want everyone around the world to recognize that black people are getting killed by the police, but if the police aren’t killing us, we are doing it ourselves by trying to break or fight this system. Take away police killings and police funding, but that is just one layer of this interweb of injustice that needs to be changed. We need allies in Congress. We need allies in the White House. We need free education and access to resources that will enable economic mobility. We need less of my people in jails for crimes that they are committing for sheer livelihood. We need to decriminalize marijuana. We need affirmative action and diversity awareness in EVERY company. We need places at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Cerner, Walmart, Tesla, etc for black people and if you argue that there aren’t a lot of qualified black people, then we need to put money towards qualifying my people.
White people, I don’t want to applaud you for joining a movement that more and more feels like a fad. I don’t want to applaud you for recognizing how privileged you’ve been. I had a conversation this morning in which I stated that racism had shaped my entire life, and a white ex-boyfriend of mine said “My whole life has been shaped by it too, but in the opposite.” White people, don’t you dare compare a life of felt injustice to a life that was lacking in it. Ever.
I understand that you don’t know how to help right now. Or what to say. I understand, and value, your protesting—I really do. But take that anger and that sadness and that guilt, and when you return home from protesting, come up with impactful ways to use your white voice to make other white voices listen.
White people, I love you for protesting and blacking out your feeds. But you need to realize that we’ve been blacked out our whole lives. We need you to keep fighting this fight, alongside us, everyday, until our black children see a world very different from the one that I had to grow up in.