You know I’m a fan of this turn of phrase. So when someone shared it with me in poetic form, posted on Facebook by Bianca Vazquez, I had to share her powerful call to action for all white people. She graciously agreed to have it appear here:
If there was ever a time
to pay attention to the non-shock of
the people of color around you
this is it.
Every time I see the response
“this is not us”
I feel the familiar sting of the times in which someone says
“I don’t see color. I treat all people the same.”
That you believe
You are telling me –
Look. I’m a good one.
I’m not like
those white people.
When in fact –
You are doing me the favor
Of telling me
you are untrustworthy
Because the world sees race –
And if you don’t –
You will blame me
for the cruelties and injustices that happen to me
or turn a blind eye while instructing me to turn
the other cheek to the things that happen to me
Similarly – “this is not us” –
that you believe this is new.
Or that things had ever changed.
It tells me you are a lazy student of history
and woefully not present to the world today.
Your rallying cry of “this is not us”
ignores that the US was built on
slavery and genocide and colonization and violence
Did you know?
There are 917 active
in the United States.
It’s easier to imagine them as
southern, as losers, as fringe,
as not woven into the fabric of
our very young democracy
Rather than your doctors, teachers,
police chief, students,
neighbors and family members
“This is not us” is what got us to the place
where “Confederate” got green lighted
Where we suppose
what might have happened
if the confederacy had successfully
seceded and slavery was legal
A well funded prime time circle jerk
for white supremacists
all the more poignant as
“Unite the Right” was about preserving
a statue of Robert E. Lee
While the demographic of “this is not us” white people
defended freedom of speech
and said – give it a chance –
The largest nazi/KKK rally in decades was brewing.
“This is not us” tells me you’ve ignored
that police killings are pacing with lynchings
that 63 mosques have been vandalized or set fire to this year
That ICE raids are terrorizing latinos at a rate greater
than our infamous “deporter in chief”
It tells me you have not been paying attention.
Even as I googled about a car plowing into protesters,
There were so many instances I had to specify the city
“This is not us” tells me your comfort
and focus on your individual goodness
is more important than accuracy
And definitely more important than my life
Admonishments to “be kind”
steeped in denial will not save us
Refusal to grapple with
the fact that this has always been the US is
what got us here in the first place
- Start where you are
- “Grassroots means no brains’: How to tackle racism in the aid sector” by Rashida Petersen & Jennifer Lentfer, The Guardian UK, 4 August 2017.
- Getting real about dominant white culture
- “Wrestling with my white fragility” by Jennifer Lentfer, OpenDemocracy Transformation, 15 December 2016.
- “They” and the shaping impulse of America
- Get there (includes collection of resources/conversations on solidarity)
- The Practice of Global Solidarity