The day has finally come when we can name and shame the racists, the bigots, the misogynists, the xenophobes, the oppressors that used to remain anonymously hidden behind the moniker of “The Man.” How refreshing it feels to no longer be gaslit by tokenism or quieted by empty words. Our rage against the machine is loud and thunderous. I have taken solace in the transparency of our times.
I have not, however, taken kindly to the overwhelming praise Black people heap on White people who do the most basic of things humans should already be doing.
Just because his voice sounds Black on the radio, she can dance to Afrobeats, or they posted #BlackLivesMatter on their social media account doesn’t mean that they are anti-racist. Reading books is not doing the work. Painting “Black Lives Matter” on the public streets is not enough. The real work of dismantling White hegemony and male patriarchy is a life-long endeavor that is only transformational when visible actions are taken to dislodge and dismantle privilege.
Let me be clear, I do not mean that you get a free pass by being a philanthropist with the money your wealthy, slave-owning family has accrued. I mean, you restructure the company to ensure that people of color (especially Black and Native people) are hired, promoted, and retained through a systemic pipeline of equity. You raise salaries so that they are at living wages, you ensure health care is adequate and affordable, and you implement family-friendly policies that allow you to keep your talented female (male, and gender non-conforming) employees. You do right by your customers and clients, with fair prices, good service, and equal & fair treatment to all. You go out of your way to make your workplace and your client service provision accessible for people of varying abilities. You fire people who have a history of discrimination, malfeasance, misfeasance, and bullying. And when you’re done, you step down and give your seat at the table to a qualified BIPOC. No, you don’t walk away completely - if you’re asked to help in a transition. You know why? Because you’re a decent human being who is not in the business of setting people up for failure. You know that your privilege will allow you to find a new job or a new board position within the blink of an eye, while this new person’s elevation requires support and haterblocking. You are not allowed at my cookout until you understand this playbook, set its spirit in motion, and produce receipts.
You know who is allowed at my cookout? Alexis Ohanian is allowed and he may be getting the big piece of chicken this year. Not because he is married to the baddest Black woman in sports since - well - ever, but because he resigned from Reddit’s board to make space for a person of color to lead. He is using his bountiful earnings from his stocks to make sizable donations to Black-led and anti-racist organizations. He has committed to giving $1 million to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp. And what triggered his actions? He knew he would have to produce receipts. He says “I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: “What did you do?””
And this girl here is welcome to join us, but her parents can’t come. Yes, we will have a bouncer outside to block protesters, and she is allowed in on a provisional basis. We are not allowing her to bring a phone or a recording device, cause we are not a social experiment. Since she is so new to this, she is required to sit next to the G.O.A.T. Jane Elliot and the only dessert she’s allowed is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We want to set her up for long-term success in the lifetime of being a woke White person. We have all had friends in school who sat at the Black table, but come their first job in HR they are passing up all the Tanequas and Rashaads. We will do our best to stop this one from being a Becky or a Karen in due time.
In all seriousness, famly, we need to discern who merits warranted recognition and who is just in this struggle to misappropriate attention. I support those who divest from police and invest in local communities, who ensure that Confederate statues come down, that Confederate flags stop flying, and that symbols of White terrorism are banned. I am not oblivious to the fact that many of these transformations were actualized because of the efforts of activists alongside White allies. But, only time will tell whose actions are sustained over the long-term. Social media gives us the allure of permanence, when meaningful transformation is often behind the scenes. I reserve the right to watch and wait.
Come next year, we all should come back together to cull the Juneteenth barbecue guest list. In the end, the price of admission is paid in receipts, not tokens.
Ashley N. Company
“Fly” Girl spreading #BlackGirlMagic across 100 countries and counting. Headwrap lover. Fierce Protector of Black Lives.