“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to.” Like most overused aphorisms, this is advice applicable to any number of situations, but none more so than for the question white liberals love most: “Does [insert Black person’s response to anti-Blackness] mean you hate white people?”
The query comes, like clockwork, in reply to the most normal reactions to things. Expressing sadness at the lost life of another child. Explaining that something must be wrong for that child to be the third you’ve heard about this week, and it’s only Tuesday. Admitting the desire to be around and with people who share and understand your hurt, pain, fear and anxiety, if only for a brief respite. Showing anger at there being so few places to find such a necessary community.
By Hari Ziyad*, AFROPUNK Writer
For these white liberals, Black people expressing justified emotions to the unjustified assaults we experience is a threat. They have heeded Langston Hughes, who explained that, thus far, “Negroes [have been] sweet and docile, Meek, humble, and kind: Beware the day – They change their mind.” They know our sweetness–our docility–is unwarranted given the world they have built and allowed. They know, because they embrace with open arms being a part of that world, if it were ever torn down it would come toppling on top of them. And they know, because I finally do, that I have changed my mind.
“Does that mean you hate white people?” is supposed to be a “gotcha” question. You are supposed to believe that the worst thing in the world is to hate a group of people, and you are supposed to believe that the asker is not disingenuous. But the people who see Black pain, rage and anger at an anti-Black world as a threat to themselves see it that way because they know they are a part of that world. They know Black people are reasonable to hate that world, and so what they are really asking is, “do you hate my anti-Black ass too?”
If you are a white person who is so attached to the things that harm Black people that my anger at those things implicates you, then, yes, it does mean I hate you. I hate your fake concern for my well-being that reaches its limits as soon as it asks you to make a change or be uncomfortable. I hate that you think I owe you my time and energy dissecting my emotions to the point that they make you, again, comfortable enough for complacency. I hate that no one has asked you whom you hate yet. I hate the way you continue to go about your day while we die. I hate the way we die. And I am no longer afraid to say it.
I don’t care about parsing out which white people my answer applies to anymore. That is their job. It's up to them to figure out why Black rage at white abuses implicates them, and then to rectify it. And we should never forget that white abuse is a systematic affair, one that relies on the participation of all of white society to continue. The only way Black hatred would not be justified would be if we were to fix five centuries of brutality and terror, and we have a long, long way to go to do that.
But the real truth is that whatever I say about our struggles is never about white people in the first place. The question of whom I hate is always secondary, if it is a question at all. I write about us, fight with us, build for us, because I love Black people. I love that we are still here. I love that we are still living, are still moving, despite the long and treacherous road ahead and behind us. I love that we can still have love, when we have so many reasons to only have hate. I love how I am learning that my love for us is not lessened–is not made less sacred–by answering “yes” when white people ask me stupid questions. And I love that I am learning that a true love for us is so powerful that it is not even lessened by believing my answer.
Banner photo via Caiaimage/Chris Ryan
*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.