News + Notes

LETTER: White friends, love is not enough

Photo by Olivia Perillo

Every time something awful and important is happening in the world, I see them. They rise like unsightly blisters as I scroll through my social media:

Let’s flood Facebook with POSITIVITY instead of NEGATIVITY!

Or 

Love everyone, even those who look different from you, pray different from you, and VOTE different from you. (Vote is almost always in bold.)

Or 

No room for HATE on my page (after blocking criticisms about racial insensitivity).

These posts, which could have been mine 10 years ago, now make me cringe. I lower my head, and my heart sinks, and I think to myself, This is not productive. When I bring this up with white people, some of them are confused. How could anyone be offended by such positive words?

Some of you are already annoyed with me. Please stay. Stay because I’ve been there, and it took years for me to understand it myself. I didn’t sit down and write this piece because I wanted to shame anyone. This is something I wish someone had told me. 

First and foremost, let’s get what you’re already thinking out of the way: Of course you have a right to post whatever you like on your social media. You have the right to desire and pursue happiness. If people don’t like it, they can unfollow you. I acknowledge that, and ask you to put a pin in it. 

These “good vibes only” posts are a form of deadly neutrality. They are ALL LIVES MATTER rebranded. All actions have a translation, and a glut of these posts on your feed translate to, I see your pain, but I’m too uncomfortable to face it. 

Black people are dying needlessly. When adjusted for population, they are killed by the police at a much higher rate than white people. They have been trying to direct our attention to this for years. And the white people who are too nervous to publicly say I don’t care or I don’t believe you choose to stand in the middle and remind their friends that they love everyone. 

This is not helpful. This is the new White Moderate. Though white people have a poor track record when it comes to speaking for Dr. King, I believe I can safely say that he would be disappointed in these people who call for love and positivity while not acknowledging the pain of our black brothers and sisters. 

LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH. Not the kind of love you’re talking about. Not the kind of holding-hands, singing-songs, the-hard-work-is-over kind of love your message suggests. White friends, we need tough love right now. We need the ugly truth. We need to be corrected when we’re speaking out of turn about something we don’t understand. We need to turn and face the illusion that’s been shattered and waiting for our eyes. The United States is not a perfect place. It is a beautiful place with strong people, fascinating culture, and innovation. But it is not perfect. 

I implore you to pause before shutting out what you perceive as negativity or hate. What you’re reading is constructive criticism. It is loving. It is needed. We cannot fix something that we do not face. 

One final point before I go: I am an educator. Sometimes my students get frustrated. They cry. They stomp their feet and resist doing the hard work I know they need to do. But when they get through to the other side of that frustration, they are better for it. We are closer for it. Right now, we are the students. We can choose to ignore and throw a tantrum, or we can come out of this better and stronger than ever. 

Thank you for listening to me. Now go and listen to the people who have been trying to talk to us for years. 

Leslie Boudreaux Tidwell, Lafayette