Dear White Women,
I have thought about writing this letter for years and have finally realized that it is time. Perhaps a letter that has been long overdue. I have spent more than half of my life writing everything from poetry to novels, trying to speak to women and encourage women to live their best lives. I knew after the 2016 presidential election, I had a lot more to say than what could fit in a poem, so I started my blog. My very first blog, “Becky, UGG Boots and Pussy Cat Hats,” was read by thousands of white women, many of whom challenged me yet ultimately agreed with me and promised to work harder to fight against racism.
I am always one to give someone the benefit of the doubt.
So began our awkward relationship. We tried to dance but never seemed to be able to catch our rhythm. You seemed to always step on my toes with “Not All” and “Not Me,” at inappropriate times. You accused me of being angry and even being racist when I was just telling the truth. Still, I stayed. Even when I started to let my guard down, you reminded me election after election that I was a fool. Yet, you told me that we were in this fight together. So, when it was time to stand up for Botham Jean, a young black man killed in his own apartment by a white female officer, I looked for you to stand with black women in protest, and I couldn’t find you. I looked for you to stand up in the wake of a hate crime in Kentucky, where two black people, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones, lost their lives, only to be met with indifference. Once again, black women were alone with our tears, pain, quiet suffering and your deafening silence.
But you told me that we’re in this together. We were part of “The Resistance.” Yet daily, there were missteps and mistakes from #BBQBecky to blackface and still, as black women, we continued to give you the benefit of the doubt. Today, I feel foolish for believing.
I wrote blog after blog hoping that something would resonate with white women, and we would see substantial change across this nation, and it never happened. After this week’s midterm election results in key states, I realized that our relationship was never one based in love and understanding. You did not love me or see me as your equal, and, throughout history, you never did. You were never going to vote for a candidate that fully supported black women. You were never going to collectively vote against whiteness. Black women were just your mascot; that black woman you could point to and say, “Look, I follow Hannah online, and I read her blog every day, and I always like her posts. I am not like those white women. Hannah and I have a relationship.” But let’s be honest: We don’t have a relationship. A relationship is based on trust and mutual respect. And time and time again, you have shown me that as a black woman, I cannot trust you, and by the way that you vote, you do not love or respect me. You whisper sweet nothings of justice in my ear. You use words like intersectionality and inclusivity, but you are double-tongued. You say one thing yet repeatedly do another. You have been duplicitous in your ways.
I realized that black women were just your plaything, something to entertain you on Twitter and Facebook. We were your live and in-color, resistance, romcom, black best friend. We were your “hey, girl,” “yaassssssss” and high fives. We were your sassy finger snap, neck roll and “Auntie.” We were the face of your resistance memes as we “reclaimed our time.” Black women made the days pass faster until you could get your next Resistance Fix. Until the next march, the next hashtag, the next knitted hat, black women were your entertainment. Black women were your hidden lover. Someone you cherished online, cloaked in the anonymity of social media with no real commitment. God forbid your racist boyfriend or husband knew you were cheating on him with black women telling the truth. We were your 2 a.m. social justice booty call. After you got what you wanted from us, you would find your way back home to white patriarchy and supremacy, hoping that you didn’t smell of your online black woman resistance lover. Black women were just the trendy thing and, just like Louboutins or bedazzled fanny packs, white women love to possess what is trendy.
To be honest though, perhaps that is our fault. Maybe we overlooked your flaws because ego got in the way. Many black women had found an unoccupied niche. A platform that had been covered in dust and cobwebs was now available for us to brush off and assume our seat on panels and nightly news channels underneath glowing lights and hot mics. For many black women, the period after the election was the only time we had a voice, the only time someone would listen to us, the only time that we were the authority. So, we carved out spaces and demanded checks next to our names to signify that we were the official voice of black women. We started PayPal and Patreon accounts. We were in demand. For once we were the commodity on our terms. Or so we thought. We fought to hold the 53 percent accountable but accountable to what? Maybe we overlooked reality. We have tried for years to find common ground and work together, yet it never seems to work. So it is best that I stop trying.
Breaking up is never easy to do, but I have decided that for those in the 53 percent and beyond, I must go my own way, and you must go yours. As the saying goes, it is not you, it is me. Throughout history up until today, you have always been who you are, and it is my fault for not believing what you showed me. What I want for black people is liberation and justice. I cannot fight for those things while trying to pull you along. Black women are drowning and, for me to swim, I must cast aside any dead weight. I am sure somehow you will find a way to float. White women always do. I have decided that I do not have the time or energy to make something work that just doesn’t seem like it wants to work. Maybe we are trying to force a relationship that was never meant to be. Perhaps we are pointlessly fighting to find similarities that we just do not have. Maybe we just found ways to tolerate each other instead of genuinely understand each other. Maybe we didn’t want to see and I have to be OK with that as I continue on to fight with and stand with others who are genuinely about liberation and justice.
I can no longer fight to make you aware or make you want to convince your friends and family what is right. If the unjustified murder of black men and women at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect won’t do it, I don’t know what will. If the countless KKK rallies won’t do it, I don’t know what will. If a president who calls black women low intelligence won’t do it, I don’t know what will. If the blatant racist attacks against black political candidates won’t do it, I don’t know what will. If a black mother burying her 12-year-old son won’t do it, I don’t know what will. If the murder of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones, two black people who just stopped for groceries won’t do it, I don’t know what will. Black women have explained our position in blood. Do with it what you will.
But now I know, in life, some things just cannot be salvaged.
It’s Not You, It’s Me. I’m breaking up with you. •
—A Black Woman
Hannah L. Drake is an author, poet and spoken word artist. Follow her at writesomeshit.com and on Twitter at hannahdrake628.