This morning I find myself back in Idaho sitting on a front porch drinking coffee and staring at the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains. I am completely sheltered from the insanity going on in our major cities. It is easy to socially distance myself from my neighbors and my friends in a town of 63 permanent residents, and in the middle of nowhere I find myself so detached from the reality of the outside world that I can avoid being exposed to the protests. I am living a life that is the epitome of privilege; a life so privileged that I am protected from the pain of others.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your perspective – I have a cellphone and Twitter, and a quick text can ruin my rainbows and unicorn fantasy world. If any of my friends can find a way to ruin my life of privilege it is Kristina and @Mvrcus_VD. I initially followed @Mvrcus_Vd for his great sports insights, but I now follow him because he never fails to call me out on my privilege and the racist ideas I once held, and he has helped me grow. Kristina was a fellow graduate student, and is a longtime advocate for diversity in the university and Black Lives Matter; she, too, has a history of calling me out on racist bullshit.
I consider these two people, one I I know personally and one that I know digitally, to be good friends. But as I watch our president order policemen to shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protestors so that he can have a photo-op at a church, and the police and agents provocateurs provoking violent confrontations, I find myself asking myself this question: Am I truly their friend? The quick answer is “no.”
I spent 32 years espousing hardline conservative ideas that defended the police who brutalize Black Americans. I spent decades advocating hardline conservative policies that prevent Black Americans from moving up the social ladder. And until two years ago I promoted the idea that Black Lives Matter was a violent, criminal organization. Given the ideas and policies that I once promoted it is hard to say that I have ever been a good friend to my Black friends. A friend is someone who not only tells someone that they care about and respect them but takes action that shows that they care about and respect them as humans and friends.
Furthermore, given the fact that conservative white America still promotes those policies, and the fact that liberal white America finds itself offering little more than social media support rather than tangible policy changes, it is safe to say that white America as a whole is not, and never has been, the friend of the Black person.
To truly be our Black friends’ real friends, we must explicitly denounce conservativism and renounce the racial inequalities at the base of this country’s social structure. We have to commit to real policy changes to create real equality. Virtue signaling on social-media has to stop; we have to be more than keyboard warriors. We have to be willing to make personal and professional sacrifices, and do real work to help make a better America.
Until we do that, white Americans, no matter how much we respect and care for our Black friends, will be little more than wolves in sheep’s clothing.