Kill ‘em with Kindness
by Cindy Gomez-Schempp
White progressives. You are killing me with your kindness. I know it’s a popular phrase amongst the good white progressive. And I realize this may be the intended result within the metaphor, but your lack of real understanding or involved passion for any progressive issue which affects people of color is literally killing us. The way in which you say that you support our causes, but ‘respectfully’ listen to and support the views of those who oppose our causes is tantamount to lukewarm support. At the end of the day, when I see that type of rhetoric on your pages or hear them in your conversations, I know you don’t have our backs.
You claim to care about the issues of PoC but only to the degree that it takes a back seat to the feelings and opinions (however misinformed, racist, or outright wrong they may be) of white people. I had heard of Minnesota and North Dakota Nice, but I didn’t realize that carried to its logical conclusion it would cause white progressives trying to prove they are ‘good’ to literally ignore the issues killing people of color, just so they can claim to be “nice”. It isn’t that you can’t be angry, rude, or righteously indignant at the injustice or the cruelty of those who speak against people of color and their issues. It is that you want to give the appearance that you are ‘just too kind’, ‘way too polite’ to confront lies and injustices against people of color. You’re a lover, not a fighter.
But, you see I don’t buy it. I don’t believe you’re problem as an ally is that, you’re just too nice. If you are too nice to confront lies, and evil then you aren’t really helping. You aren’t an ally. And you are just trying to fool me. Merely saying you support #BlackLivesMatter, or demilitarizing police, or giving relief to undocumented immigrants, etc., or writing an occasional post on social media does not make you a supporter. Many white progressives believe that just saying something they’ve never said before makes them ‘an ally’. And they believe that if they stay polite and tell detractors “I respect your opinion too”, that they are nice. It isn’t true.
You aren’t nice when you side with the oppressor. You’re scared of the oppressor. You are complicit in allowing them to go unchallenged by those who are in power in this society – – white people. I don’t see anything nice about agreeing both with the oppressed, and also with the oppressor. You can’t befriend those who are being killed, and give audience and opportunity to their murderer. That isn’t ‘nice’, that’s called betrayal. It’s considered entrapment. Playing both sides against the middle. If you examine your lukewarm, sit in the middle position, you will see for yourselves how it is truly useless to people of color, and downright evil. If you are one of those good white progressives who think their allyship means you occasionally talk about or post on social media about something that usually makes white folks cringe – – you have totally missed the point.
We see you, and we know what you are really doing. It isn’t ‘being an ally’. It isn’t ‘being a good white progressive’. It’s a carefully choreographed dance meant to keep you safely in the comfort of your white privilege while allowing you to pretend to be ‘good white progressives’ to black and brown folks’ faces with your platitudes and empty gestures that do nothing for us. Meanwhile, you make sure that within your circle of friends and family – – the social circles segregated from people of color and built upon the white supremacy that keeps you so comfortable – – no one is uncomfortable, feels disrespected, or gets shaken by your ‘action’ or ‘inaction’ in any measurable way.
But those of us who you tell that you are ‘on our side’ and ‘want to help’, we see you. We know what you are really doing. And we are testing you. Just like the #BlackLivesMatter leaders tested Bernie, and continue to test other leaders to see if they will back up their words with real action, so too will you be tested. We follow what you say and do. And you know what it looks like when you are acting as an effective ally? You are making everyone around you very uncomfortable. You are constantly confronting those who support the oppression of people of color. You won’t say “I have to agree to disagree”, you would say “I can no longer surround myself with people who support hate and oppression of people of color”. If you are one of those white progressives who are trying to ‘support the cause’ of people of color and all your friends and family are hammering you because of your thoughts and you are telling them the truth regardless of their discomfort, then you’re doing it right. If you simply kowtow to everyone who comes make the devil’s advocate argument on your page then you are trying to have your cake and eat it too. And you’re doing it at the expense of the people of color whom you claim to be supporting — while your actual support stays squarely in the camp of your own white privilege.
Cindy Gomez-Schempp is the founder of Mexi-Can.org. She is also the Co-founder of PPP, a media justice non-profit. She’s an author, writer, and implements new media/social media outreach and web optimization married with translating and cultural consulting services. Questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org