Asking Black people to be optimistic in the face of racism feels like oppression.
People Will Let You Down
I’m a realist, and I’ve always placed my faith and hope in things and people sparingly for several reasons. Having hope about future outcomes when you’ve seen the worst of people most of your life can be difficult. Being a former street kid for a spell and being in foster care taught me to read people like a newspaper quickly, and correctly. I could tell by one encounter if a person would help, hinder, or harm me. The words and/or actions of friends, caretakers, and social service providers, social workers, teachers, etc., spoke volumes about their character. To just make it short and sweet, people will let you down, and I’m just keeping it real.
To pretend otherwise is asking for trouble.
I’ve seen the ugliness humanity dishes out from my own mother, family and upbringing in an abusive home, to my professional career fields in sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and my time working in social work where I have encountered persons affected by substance abuse, mental illness, poverty, and life-altering, debilitating traumas that sometimes span generations.
Watching adults throw away their kids in preference of sex, money, men/women is a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve witnessed it. I’ve seen plenty of human trauma victims neglected. I have watched churches sweep sexual abuse under the rug from their own priests, and I’ve seen desperate people denied for social services because of racism. White people and People of Color have intentionally engaged in microaggressions to be a hindrance for no other reason except I’m Black and they had power to do so.
When complete strangers can be evil for no good reason and get away with it, it’s hard to have hope in humanity. Some groups of people wake up every day and choose to be racist or ignore racism. That’s why with faith and people, my optimism is low. When you keep your optimism low, you don’t have far to fall when folks let you down, and they will let you down.
People like me lay up staring at ceilings at night, wondering how the world can be so heartless, and how people can be so damned barbaric and selfish. How can we see our fellow man struggling, suffering, and oppressed and do nothing about it at all, as if it’s someone else’s problem?
Seeing the ugliness and callousness of people so frequently in real-time has caused me to lose faith in humanity. Not all people, but a lot of them, especially White people — which brings me to racism. It’s hard to be optimistic about racism ending when I’ve seen the ugliness of racist White people who are steadfast in their racist convictions and unwilling to change.
Not only are White people unwilling to change, they also cannot see themselves as racist. They won’t take the time to learn about systematic and institutional racism that harms us all, and they don’t change their social and political behavior so we Black folks can see changes in ours. How in the fuck do you keep asking Black folks to believe in White people when all they’ve ever done to Black folks is knock us down, keep us down, and/or force us to go along and get along with them in all their evil and fuckery to survive?
If we are all supposed to be one big national family, then a lot of our family members are abusive, and it’s impossible to thrive under such conditions. Just hoping and wishing White folks will change doesn’t work.
White Family Violence Dashes Black Family Hopes
Asking victims of racism to continue being optimistic when the victimization is a reality every single day seems like some type of escapism effort for White people to avoid dealing with the reality of their family violence against Blacks in America. I chose the term family violence because the term encompasses many acts that can include emotional, financial, physical, and sexual abuse that puts immediate family members in danger. To me, a family is simply a group of people who have each other’s back and will go to the ends of the earth to care for and protect those in the family from harm. Families aren’t always defined by blood relations or by marriage. There are church families, work families, homeless people often create street families to share in their struggles and to protect those in their families from harm. Citizens of nations often act as families, advocating and protecting national interests.
We often view families by the amount of love and respect they hold for each other. But as we all know, in any family, there are bad family members. In America, White people are those bad family members who cause all the trouble in our enormous family, stealing our shit when we’re not looking, infringing upon our rights, verbally and financially abusing family members, and lying to us all keep us separated. White family members refuse to get help, refuse to acknowledge they have issues, and they refuse change.
Generation after generation, White people in America are the violent family members dashing Black hopes and dreams while they infringe on our freedoms and rights. How are we expected to remain hopeful when so many White family members willfully engage in family violence?
No one should really expect Black people to still be hopeful White people will change after all we’ve seen and experienced. The fact White people are still proclaiming they don’t know what to do about racism is all one needs to hear to have their hopes dashed. White people authored our national family violence campaign specifically against Black people and benefit from the family violence, yet tell us they don’t know how to end it.
Racism, in any form, is violence. How is it that White people don’t know how to end violence they engage in? How do they not even know all the ways they are violent towards Black people and why can they so easily look away from the harm they’ve caused because of their intentional acts of violence and willful neglect?
Why are we Black people supposed to sit around and look at White people optimistically after they’ve shown us a 400+ year track record of pure family violence committed against Black and Brown people?
The truth of the matter is that more White people are comfortable doing nothing about racism. Just look how comfortable they are since they have elected Biden. They really believe shit is going back to normal and they can keep burying their heads in the sand. For most of us, we knew we were selecting the lesser of two evils. For them, they see the choice as peace (White comfort), fuck progress.
America is literally a failed state living through a coup d’état and a pandemic at the same damned time, and White folks are worried about White folks shit like being with family for Christmas, vacations, getting back to normal, the economy and the stock market, and brunches. Not giving a damned about racism got us here. White people intentionally made America a failed state because they love racism and White privilege more than they love the national family. White folks would rather sell me and millions of other Black folks more optimism than to admit it, because White comfort ya know.
White folks’ optimism is White folks’ snake oil cure to hide their lack of willingness to their racism head on, and I’m tired of them selling their shitty optimism to us. I’m also tired of Black folks buying White optimism in such large quantities, because it does nothing for us. White optimism kills.
White Optimism Kills
White folks’ optimism kills Black folks’ hopes, prevents us from having dreams, robs us of joy, steals our inheritances, deprives us of opportunities, allows us to be physically killed as they stand by shocked in silence again and again, and it lets White people off the hook for their racist sins.
White optimism allows White people to live full vibrant lives regardless of the potential.
White optimism also allows White folks to watch Black people die.
White folks have used optimism for far too long to avoid real substantive conversations and change.
White folks’ hopefulness and confidence about the future has been weaponized against Black folks. They’ll tell us things are getting better while they do nothing about racial inequality. White folks sell us their old useless hope in their politics. White people sell us hope with their warped capitalistic economic system built on the backs of enslaved people and then pretend we minorities can just work hard to catch up to them when nothing is further from the truth. They even sold us hope in their slave bibles. If there is one thing White people know how to do, it’s sell hopes and dreams to the oppressed. It’s why it’s so hard for me to have hope in White people collectively. So few White folks change, and because so few White people change, Black people and other racial minority groups continue to experience low wealth, higher poverty races, and less power transfers. It all stems from White people and White violence.
So, I don’t trust White optimism. It’s nothing more than a pyramid scheme with a high chance of Black folks being disappointed in them. White optimism schemes only work when we Black folks believe in White dreams. Investing in White folks’ American dream is the biggest pyramid scheme Black folks invest in. Just like in pyramid schemes, the only way White people can continue extracting Black wealth is by promising extraordinary returns to new Black recruits if we join their team. New recruits are Black people and other suckered non-White immigrant groups vested in and willing to sacrifice for the American dream, not realizing we’ll never have what they have because of racism, and if you have the things they have, it’s because you’ve adopted a zero-sum mindset like most White people. In order for you to win, others must lose by any means necessary.
We Black folks spend our entire lives hoping and never achieving, chasing without realizing, never enjoying, and dying when we should be living. White optimism is killing us slowly, and we willingly sign up for it.
White Optimism Is White Folks’ Favorite Religion
Too many White people treat optimism like some sort of religion. Sadly, a lot of Black people do too. People are running around hoping and having faith in things they shouldn’t. Such optimism causes people to get hurt. Why are we asking Black and Brown people to wait and see if White folks will stop hurting them, even though they’ve seen with their own eyes these people have no plans to stop hurting them? Such optimism is bad for us Black folks. It’s asking us to dismiss what we see with our eyes and to forget our own racialized experiences. White optimism gives too many bad White folks opportunities to continue harming us.
Because White people do not experience racism and because they experience White Supremacy differently, it’s easy for them to suggest optimism. I was laying in bed the other morning and I was listening to business analyst describe the markets optimistically, despite literally seeing business close each week in my area permanently. I find it difficult to continue subscribing to White folks’ optimism, because we’re consistently let down by them. From the stock market to protesting in the streets for justice, White optimism is just bad for Black people. Their hopes don’t translate into Black successful.
Black people and people of color cannot trust White optimism, nor can we afford to anymore.
White Optimism Wastes Times
If Black people and People of Color spent more time working on ourselves and our own communities instead of wasting time buying into White people’s optimism, we’d be much better off as a people I believe. Investing in White optimism is a waste of time because it allows White people to kick the can down the road, doing nothing about their behavior individually or collectively as the rest of us suffer in this perpetual hell of oppression. We’re smothered to death in White optimism, so much so as a nation it has rendered us immobile. White people keep hoping things get better and not doing anything substantive, tangible, and long-term to make things better.
White optimism led to Trump and Trumpism, Q-Anon, and MAGA.
White optimism ignored the Tea party, ignored the harmful impact of trickle-down, destroyed the earth via environmental terrorism/global warming, forgot White history while at the same time discounting Black history, and has worked quietly to construct fantasies about liberty, freedom, and equality that they know damned well we’ll never have, because they don’t intend for us to have them.
Waiting on White people to get better or do the right thing is like waiting on a fever to break without medicine. It might break with no help, but it could also kill you in the process.
White Optimism Keeps White People Comfortable
White optimism keeps White people insulated in White comfort, and I’m not down with that shit anymore. If my safety, comfort and ability to care for myself and my family is being impacted by White comfort, they are getting ready to be uncomfortable for a lot from now on because I’m no longer allowing White people to sell me hope and a better future without plans. If you can’t tell me anything better than “I’m optimistic about the future,” save it. Selling optimism makes White folks feel good, and apparently they believe it’s what we want to hear.
Optimism allows White people to change subjects and turn pages we need to address, and their optimism allows them to pretend everything is okay for the rest of us. Because of racism, things are never okay for us individually, for Blacks and people of color collectively, nor the nation. Racism is a national security threat White people have allowed to ruin America, and they act like it’s just another day in the park. Because White people don’t change, nothing ever gets better, so save that optimism White people.
I Can No Longer Trust White Optimism
I don’t trust White optimism anymore because it has proven in my lifetime it’s untrustworthy. Black people and People of Color have been asked for far too long to place our hope in White people who have shown themselves to be the same racist, apathetic, liberal and conservative White people they’ve always been. Asking us to continue being optimistic is asking us to forget broken promises, missed opportunities, silence, and
Asking us to continue trusting White optimism is asking non-White folks to ignore the millions of people who won’t have money this week because White men like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump play racist White man power tripping games. We’re going to ignore we tried to tell you this would happen four years ago, and you didn’t listen. We’re going to act like our political system and governments aren’t broken and don’t work for everyone, just keep hoping things are going to change.
White people, shit will not change in America because you all don’t change.
You believe racism is someone else’s problem, not yours.
You believe because you don’t say the N-word (you just think it when you get mad); you give to charity monthly, or you are nice to Black people that’s enough to make things better for us.
You White people think hoping the best will make the best just happen.
Let me break the bad news to you, it won’t.
Optimism should be removed from the lips and minds of White people in 2021. Ya’ll have run this nation into the ground because you’ve lived on optimism for far too long, and you trusted yourselves entirely too much. Next year is probably going to be the worst year of our lives as a nation unless you’re rich and have money to flee this shithole. It’s going to take years for us to get back all we’ve lost, if that’s even possible. We can’t bring back the dead lost to Covid. We can’t undo all the racist attacks we’ve endured over the past 40 years. Optimism won’t get us out of this mess. White optimism won’t stop the next batch of racist Trumps and McConnells from taking office and taking over the government.
Only hard work is going to fix this. White people must consciously fight against themselves to keep us from going into full authoritarianism. We fight and take to the streets and White people cling to their little optimism, paralyzed in fear. How in the hell can you be so big and bad when you’re ruling and destroying, but helpless with mending and rebuilding? See how that works. It makes no sense.
You can’t hope shit gets better, you gotta do something to make it better. And it’s okay if you don’t, just get used to us cutting off your optimistic outlooks and platitudes, because they are useless to us. We’re fresh out of hope. We’re in the trenches and we’re keeping it real!
Asking Black people to be optimistic in the face of racism feels like oppression. White optimism endangers Black lives, and it’s bad for our physical, mental, emotional, and financial health. Normalize challenging and not trusting White optimism.
Optimism (the equivalent of faith or hope) without works is a dead faith because the lack of works reveals an unchanged life or a spiritually dead heart.
If faith without works is dead, White optimism without action should be dead too. Next year is going to be challenging enough, we don’t need false hopes impeding our survival.
If all you can do is hope White people, save it. That shit can’t help us out of this mess you’ve made. Hope less and love more. Clearly hope doesn’t motivate you White people to do better, maybe love will. Learn to love otherness and maybe you can save America (finally). I can tell you we are not. I hung up my cape this year.
Saving America is on ya’ll White folks, and your optimism cannot and will not save any of us. Optimism without works is dead honey, and America is on life support.
Marley K in Quarantine in 2020…still
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