I need to interrupt your newsfeed for this quick alert: Black people are tired.
I shouldn’t speak for everyone but as for myself, I am TIRED of being a woman of color, in the age of social media. I am tired of listening to you debate the lives of Black males at the water cooler, and I am tired of trying really hard to be unoffensive in my approach, while Larry Loose Lips shoots from the hip every chance he gets.
Do you know how many articles I have read in the past several months on confederates? I am not from the South. My hair frizzes in the heat. I don’t care to read essays on the battle flag, and yet I have to. That is the burden I carry in the old U.S. of A. I have to read articles on who Robert E. Lee was and what he stood for, just so I can know what I am talking about when I interject on your comment thread. I don’t want to be a troll. I want to like your baby pictures and keep scrolling like everyone else. But when I run the math, and recognize that not one person out of your 1,200+ friends has paused to explain to you why your post would be taken offensively, I have to assume that I may be one of the only people of color on your entire network. That is the burden of the minority. We can’t just represent ourselves. We constantly think about the population we identify with, and how certain views could further marginalize an already marginalized group. And so even though we are tired, we.keep.posting. Because we recognize that while Facebook may not be the best vehicle to explain racial prejudice, at this moment, it’s what is in our control.
“That is the burden of the minority. We can’t just represent ourselves. We constantly think about the population we identify with, and how certain views could further marginalize an already marginalized group.”
I have purchased two books this year by Martin Luther King, Jr. I am not an African-American history major. I don’t typically thumb through biographies of civil rights leaders in my spare time. I like to watch trashy reality television just like everyone else. But when people are out there misappropriating various citations of the man who represents peaceful protest in this country, I have to be able to provide you with a footnote. I may not change your opinion, but my digital footprint throwing a wrench in your ignorance parade may strike a chord with those who are simply passing by. And so I coax my tired fingers into typing one more time.
I am not the only person I know doing this. Just this morning, I read through a comment thread on the NFL protests. I saw a girl I know reference the United States Code Title 36 Chapter 10 section 176. This is a Facebook thread, not a glossary of legal terms. She is an elementary school teacher, not a district attorney. And yet, I understand her burden. We don’t want to be combing through court filings, but we don’t know how else to stop the madness.
“I’m tired of having to pretend like things aren’t connected to race, that are so clearly connected to race.”
Another Black friend who is a social worker started trying to explain that Rosa Parks wasn’t actually protesting public transit, just as Colin Kaepernick isn’t protesting the United States flag. We have full-time jobs people! No one wants to keep feeling the need to circle through the Internet trying to carefully and considerately explain these positions. It’s exhausting. I won’t speak for all my fellow people of color out there, but as for this token, I am TIRED.
I’m tired of having to pretend like things aren’t connected to race, that are so clearly connected to race. I am tired of carefully selecting all my words so that I don’t make a sweeping generality that will prevent you from understanding how privilege works. I am tired of how deeply polarized our political climate has gotten. As if we are more Republican than we are human beings. I don’t think who you vote for in an election should be so deeply knitted into the fabric of who you are. But right now it feels like we are all worlds apart.
All I know is this: as a biracial woman in this country, who is blessed to have both White and Black family members, and whose blood is literally the culmination of two racial histories, I can assure you, THIS CAN WORK. We can all get along. We can step outside of our own experiences, and acknowledge the truth in someone else’s. We can see each other, and value each other’s differences. My family does it. My husband is White, my sister’s husband is Asian, my father is Black, and we all get along just fine. Seriously. The only time we fight is during an intense round of Scattergories.
Please, think before you post. Try to think about how your friends of color feel as they scroll through your timeline. And if you don’t have any friends of color, should you really be commenting on the experiences of minorities? Sidenote: Having a Black friend online, is not the same as actually knowing, loving, and nurturing deep relationships with people of color. Just because Tyrone accepted your friend request, does not mean you are now able to tell us how minorities should think and feel.
Do you know how awkward it is to see you in person, and pretend like I didn’t just see what articles you were sharing? I am learning the value of trying to swallow, even if you want to spit. I truly believe in fighting darkness with light. So I’ll keep brushing up on the chronology of the NFL and saying, “Bless your heart,” even if I don’t mean it. I want to get to a place where I do. But the struggle of being a minority right now in this country is TIRING.
BTW I know it’s not just Blacks who are tired of blatant racial bias and privilege. I have been seeing more and more Whites, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans trying to carry this burden too. To you all, I say thank you. Thank you for shouldering the burden. Together we can keep moving forward, even if social media pushes us back. This is a country I am proud to live in, because of the diversity that embodies it.
We can be tired. We just can’t quit.
Heather Thompson Day is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Andrews University. She is the author of five Christian books, including Life After Eden, and writer for The Spilled Milk Club. Facebook her, or check her out on Instagram.