Dear Susan: 

I want you to know I “really, really” understand what you are going through now. Talking to white people about racism is hard and when they (racists) know where you live and your children and family, it becomes terrifying. I have encountered many of these same hateful responses after writing about racism. The first time someone mentioned my home address and the school my children attend, I was ready to quit writing about racism permanently! 

You are probably debating if you should ever talk about racism again. I won’t lie to you, if you do anti-racism work, there are few personal benefits. Truthfully, being anti-racist comes with a lot more risks than benefits. And you really can opt out because you are a white woman. Most white folks are silent about racism and never say anything, or get angry, with their racist white family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers. Being quiet about racism is normal for white people. What you did, showing real emotion, is out of the norm and it is scary being out of the norm. I am a black woman and even I continuously have to talk myself into staying in the fight. 

Here are some of the things that keep me writing and fighting racism:

1) We are in good company.

Anti-racist folks have been dealing with white terrorism, especially from white men, for the last 400 years. The abolitionists faced the same fear, and yet they continued to speak, act, and be angry about racism. To be on the same side of history as Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis, gives me more courage than fear of the white terrorists. 

2) White racists are cowards. 

White terrorists enjoy scaring people “anonymously.” They hardly use their names or show their faces. They bet on us being afraid, that just the threat of violence will be enough to shut us up. Brave anti-racists paid the price for speaking out. Dr. King, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, most of the early black residents who integrated this community, faced consequences that were life-threatening. Yet they did not back down. They knew death was a real consequence for the “crime of talking about white racism” and still fought racism. We honor them by refusing to allow fear to stop us from fighting racism. 

3) Stop apologizing for being angry. 

As a feminist, anger is an appropriate response to racism. What they are doing to you is called “tone policing.” It is meant to silence you and make you, and anyone else who dares to speak against racism, scared to show emotion. Systemic racism and oppression are evils and it is normal to be angry. 

Susan, all of us who choose to fight racism have to make hard, difficult personal sacrifices. Many of these sacrifices aren’t just personal but include risks to our families. I am praying for you and your family this weekend. I know, really I do, the attractiveness of “opting-out” or “toning down your racism rhetoric,” especially when our children and partner didn’t sign up for this fight.

But I hope you keep fighting on our team, Susan. #TeamAntiRacism is supportive and we are experiencing the same thing. Your story is not unique and is common to all who speak out against racism. Being anti-racist isn’t fun; however, it is the only way to beat racism. 

OK, so you got your butt kicked this week. Rest, reflect, recharge, and then re-engage in the movement. 

I’ll end with the words of Frederick Douglass: 

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

ShaRhonda Knott Dawson is a west suburban resident who is involved in multiple service organizations and projects in, and around, Oak Park. Her writing can be found on her blog, sharhondatribune.com.

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