I’m A Black Woman With A Strong Message For My 'Woke' White Friends

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Let me start by saying, most of my friends are white. It’s been this way my entire life, though when I was younger, it was easy to ignore certain things about our racial differences, and how it played into our everyday lives. It wasn’t something that was on my radar. Yet.

But in the last few years, as racial tensions have yet again been pushed to the forefront of people’s consciousness, I have become more aware of how I interact with my white friends. Not because I worry that they are low-key racists, but because of their alleged “wokeness.” White people, especially white women, like to fall over themselves to prove how not racist they are; it has almost become a competition about who can be more “woke.” But here’s the thing, it’s not a fucking competition. And going out of your way to prove that you’re an ally is the prime example of white feminism.

So calm the fuck down, will you? Or, actually be fucking “woke.”

“You’ll call me out if I mess up, right?”

I cannot tell you how many times one of my white female friends has said this to me. I always laugh and tell them sure, if I catch you messing up, I’ll let you know. And occasionally I do. But, most of the time, I don’t. You know why? It’s not my job to tell you that you messed up. If you’re as “woke” as you like to claim you are on social media, you’ll be able to see your misstep without anyone having to point it out.

But I know that’s not how people work, so here you go. This is me calling you out. Get a pencil and take some notes, because I’m only saying this once.

If you’re gonna be about the life, then you gotta be all in. You can’t pick and choose what you’re going to be mad about.

Sunday was the Super Bowl. Now, I couldn’t give a damn about football. I’m only about pigs in a blanket and some boneless honey BBQ wings. I usually only tune in for the Halftime Show, and even that is dependent on who’s performing. This year, I was all in, because my lifelong bae, Justin Timberlake was finally headlining.

If you know me, you know how big of a deal this was. Before I go any further, let me say, I don’t give a flying fuck if you like Justin Timberlake, and don’t come to me talking about why you don’t. I’ve been a fan of his for almost 20 years, I’ve heard it all. So, don’t waste your time. IDGAF.

The day of the game, I can’t tell you how many of my white, feminist friends were posting lengthy statuses about how much they can’t stand Justin Timberlake.

“Unless his performance is an apology to Janet Jackson, I’m not interested. He’s cancelled.”

*Takes a deep breath.*

“Nipplegate” happened 14 years ago. Justin wasn’t the headliner of the Halftime Show. Janet Jackson is a grown ass woman. She, and any other black woman, doesn’t need you to speak for her. Keep her name out of your mouth, because it doesn’t need to be there. That beef got turned into a hamburger years ago. Justin doesn’t owe it to you to give a public apology, so that you can drag him for it in some op-ed okay? Just because you read an article dragging him on The Root doesn’t mean you get to stand up on your white feminist soapbox. Don’t act like you really come that hard for Janet, okay? You probably can’t name a song other than “Rhythm Nation.”

And let’s not come for Justin over this, when y’all are still not picking and choosing when to show up for black women. Hypocrites, much?

Listen, this is coming from a place of love, but I’m sick of your bullshit. So, as much as I love you, I’m gonna have to tell you about yourselves.

You can’t be indignant about the Super Bowl Halftime performance, and then put on your pink pussy hat, pick up your sign and go the Women’s March. Because we all know that march is nothing but white feminism on parade. These marches only started because white women were finally realizing that under the Orange One, their rights would be compromised. You know whose rights have always been compromised? The rights of Black women. And yet, in most areas, we were shut out of the planning, and only the famous women got the platform to speak.

Y’all fell over yourselves to thank black women for voting for Doug Jones over Roy Moore, and yet, you don’t throw that kind of support to the Black women running for office. Or the ones who already hold office. You’re over here shouting “Michelle Obama for President!” and “Oprah for President!” just because they made an inspiring speech. Sure, they know how to make a moving speech, but there are actual politicians doing the work already. They’ve been doing the work. What about Kamala Harris for President? She’s, like, actually qualified.

Just saying, if you want a Black woman for president, seek out the ones already putting in the work. Donate to them, talk about them, and lift them up.

I’m glad you’re teaching your kids about black women historical figures, but there are hundreds more than Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. You want to give them an education? Stop just talking about the same people the schools do. We know they don’t give a damn about Black History Month. Teach your kids about women like Phyllis Wheatley or Sojourner Truth. Or try more contemporary women like, Lorraine Hansberry, who was a black woman, a prolific playwright, and a crusader for LGBT rights back in the 1950s. You wanna talk about music? Teach your kids about Nina Simone. Tell them about Mae Jamison, the first black woman in space. Literally hundreds of women to choose from. Hundreds.

And for the love of all that which is holy, let’s let Martin Luther King Jr. rest, shall we? The brother is tired of white women pulling his name out to prove some sort of point about the benevolence of peaceful protest, and how to be a “good” Black person. If I see one more of you use that tired “love can drive out darkness” quote, I’m going to scream. Stop trying to make him fit your narrative. The American government wanted him dead. He was on the FBI watchlist. White people only liked him once he was dead and gone. Listen to more than just the “I Have a Dream” speech. Or better yet, listen to some of his contemporaries. I bet you still believe that Malcom X was preaching death to white people, but he said some seriously deep shit. Listen to Dick Gregory, who was a comedian, but also a social activist.

But seriously, sit out next MLK day. Keep your generic memes to yourself. Please.

You wanna stand for Beyonce and tell all the women to “get in formation,” but I bet you can’t tell me a damn thing that the Black Panthers did. Our formation ain’t for you. Educate yourselves on those who died for the cause. Who were murdered. You’ll mourn for Michael Brown, but if I say the name Emmett Till, you have no idea. You know Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat on the bus, but what was the name of the woman who did it months before?

You can’t pick and choose what parts of blackness you’re going to support. You can’t say #MeToo, and only share the stories of the white women who come forward. All of you were falling all over yourselves to share the Time Magazine cover, applauding the sisterhood for getting shit done, and yet none of you realized that the black woman who started #MeToo, for black women specifically, wasn’t even included on the cover?

When you suggest charities for your friends to donate to, and none of them are specifically related to uplifting Black people? I see you.

When your Black friend gets discriminated on your Facebook post, and you have to point out the fact that they work in prestigious job rather than just saying that they’re Black? I see you.

When you’re only “woke” when it’s trendy and fun? You bet, I fucking see you.

Get your shit together “woke” white women, because I’m not here for any of it.

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