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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Don’t get rid of racist Facebook friends

    A few days ago, a friend on Facebook posted that she was triumphant in “finally getting rid of the ignorance, hate, misogyny and racism” on her newsfeed. She accomplished this feat by defriending people who had made offensive posts about Michael Brown and then passive-aggressively posting about it — which I’m sure led to a few other people thinking, “Oh, I also disagree with her, but I’m less vocal about it,” and subsequently defriending her.

    I’m proud to be a part of a community and university that is willing to have dialogue and protest about problematic situations like the murders of Brown and, more recently, Eric Garner. But I’m concerned because at last Friday’s protests, I saw mostly white faces leading the community in chants like “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe.”

    UA alumnus and current activist Kemi Oso said she recently recognized similar patterns in Washington.

    “I understand the intentions of the protests,” she said, “and it’s nice to see that there are white allies who want to be a part of this movement to dismantle systemic racism. However, I think they need to realize that a role in that fight is uplifting the voices who are already fighting, who have been doing so for a while, instead of recentering the conversation and movement on whiteness.”

    While the protest had good intentions, generally movements should be led by the people who are directly affected by them. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is a great chant and a powerful image when done by people who are actually at risk of being shot by the police, but when done by a group of white people, it just looks like a malformed flashmob that forgot the lyrics to “YMCA.”

    But white people do have a role in these protests and movements. As Oso pointed out, it’s their responsibility to amplify the voices of people of color when they talk about their experiences with racism. It’s their responsibility to engage their fellow white people in discussions that black and brown people may be too exhausted or, frankly, busy to have. White people need to be using their unearned privilege as white people to reduce the looming racial divide.

    So while it may seem helpful or cathartic to unfriend the people who are posting troll-tastic comments on your photos or statuses, it’s counterproductive. People can’t just preach to the choir. When it comes to family members or close friends who are willing to ignore their privilege, eager to look past systemic oppression and blind to the institutionalization of hate, being aggressive in opening dialogues is the only way to catch them up.

    Recently, I shared a series of graphic images to another friend’s wall and some of her family members commented saying things like “they deserved it,” or “he was a criminal and a thug,” and she made the tough decision to engage those family members in a dialogue about why their opinions are hateful.

    She made a choice that everyone should make — to engage in meaningful, although difficult, conversations with people who differ in opinion. White people cannot be silent on issues of race, especially because they directly benefit from a system that has been programmed to systematically screw over people of color.

    Don’t defriend. Dialogue.


    Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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