Sri Taylor is a junior at Rutgers University studying communication with a specialization in public relations. She is a 2018 graduate of Columbia High School and was raised and currently lives in South Orange. Taylor also responded to an anonymous, negative letter she received in response to this essay here.
Hello to all my white neighbors, friends, and acquaintances who are reading this. If what is going on in the world right now is making you feel upset, enraged, hopeless, or all of the above, that is just a small taste of what black children and adults experience everyday. As many emotions you may be feeling, you will never be able to fathom the trauma that black people carry throughout our entire lives. We are feeling levels of anger and frustration that white people cannot and will not be able to grasp. Take this into consideration when you are talking to your black friends, lovers, or peers.
Black children and teenagers are taxed with the challenge of navigating the oppressive systems that harm them while also being young and vulnerable. Just like your children, we want to have a chance to be just that– children– and we are not granted with those privileges because of our blackness. The same mistakes that are just a part of growing up for white people, are the same mistakes that could cost a black child their life if they were to make them. This is so frustrating, so confusing.
So when black people are expressing their anger, confusion, and pain, don’t twist the narrative and take it as a personal attack on you as a white person. This is not the time to victimize yourself. While you cannot understand what we’re going through, you can respect that this is bigger than you and your feelings. This is about our lives. Your defensive behavior when being called out on your racism only shows us that you are not willing to learn, you are not willing to really hear us. The constant policing of how I handle my grief by my friends and peers has been taxing on my mental health and has drained all of my energy. I am sure it has done the same for many black people, as well. I am so tired of explaining myself and reliving my trauma just for you to deflect and demonize me.
Pictured is an excerpt from black British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge’s blog. She was able to eloquently describe my frustration with explaining my trauma to my white friends.
To all of my white neighbors, peers, and friends who are dedicating their time to bettering themselves and fight the racist system you benefit from, please give this post a read/listen: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.
For my black brothers and sisters, I suggest you give it a read as well. Prioritize your mental health while you navigate the world around you, and understand that while our work is never over, it is okay to feel the way that I feel. Your anger and frustration is not misplaced. Do not let anyone make you feel that way.