Dear White Liberals: A “Call-In” to Cut the Complacency and Get to Work

“When will the doom lift???” she asks. My mother is a wonderfully empathetic liberal with a long history of working for justice and equality. She taught me that everyone deserves respect, regardless of their skin color or sexual orientation or religion (or even political affiliation!) She is intelligent and unwaveringly kind, like so many Democrats of her generation.

But a lot of these folks, aside from making lengthy political posts on facebook, tend to remain inactive when it comes to fighting for the causes they so righteously claim to care about. (I’m not calling you out, I’m calling you in.)

This is a new era with a new political and cultural climate—a new left, a new right, and a seemingly disappearing center. And, as 2016 has shown, now is a time in which ANYTHING can happen. The deaths of Prince and Bowie seem to have unraveled the very fabric of space and time, diminished the laws of the universe—miss you guys :(. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, many of us left-leaning (no matter our precise position on the political spectrum) white people are angry and afraid. I want not to delegitimize anyone’s emotional experience, but for us, in this instance, this pain and fear is a privilege.

In ‘merica today—and yesterday, and for the last several hundred years—People of Color are not safe. Trans folk are not safe. Immigrants and refugees are not safe. Muslims are not safe. Native Americans and Indigenous People are not safe. People with these marginalized identities are less safe than they were last week.

And as kindhearted and generous as well-off white Democrats like my parents are, they cannot fathom living every day fearing for their lives, nor can I. Our formal education and empathy can only enlighten us so much.

Many of us feel scared and perhaps hopeless about the future under a Trump presidency. Now is the time to harness our fear and our sadness and our anger. We each have to make a choice as to how we are going to move forward. Especially those of us with overlapping privileges, such as whiteness, financial stability, education, able-bodies and minds, cisgender identities. Things are going to continue to be shitty for a long time, especially if we white folk continue to let the establishment dictate our feelings and actions and to both feed and feast upon our fears.

This is the call. Y’all don’t get to be complacent liberals anymore.

This is an opportunity for great personal reflection and change if we can speak honestly with ourselves. We have to deliberately and thoroughly face our privileges, as well as our biases. We need to see them, understand them, and contextualize them. We need to use our privilege to amplify marginalized voices, to create and maintain safe spaces for marginalized populations. Finish mourning and set aside your grief (soon, please). If you are able, don’t let yourself get sucked into despair and guilt and uncertainty. These emotions are not productive. Let your distress motivate you into action.

We must all make the efforts to educate ourselves. Read. Converse. Listen. If we are able, physically show up. Put our bodies in radical spaces. Utilize the kindness by which we define ourselves to commit radical acts of compassion and love. This could mean heading up efforts to collect supplies to send to Water Protectors at Standing Rock, or contributing funds for gas money or firewood; or it could be an act as small as accompanying a trans person to the restroom. Do and give what you can so that those who do not have the privileges you possess can be at least a little bit safer, their voices louder and clearer.

If you do not actively resist oppression, then you passively allow it to take lives.

Now let’s get to work.


3 thoughts on “Dear White Liberals: A “Call-In” to Cut the Complacency and Get to Work

  1. Hannah my dear friend. This piece is terrific. I am so thankful for your insightful and thoughtful words. I really need to allow the fear and sadness to dissipate so I can “make a positive difference” in the midst of hate and bigotry. Blessings to you and keep writing!


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