InFormation: Dear White People, Recognize Your Black Friends’ Woes.

Jordan Listenbee
4 Min Read




Dear white people,

We need to talk.


As a writer, I’m often compelled to jot down my thoughts on issues that not only concern my life, but the lives of those around me. In the wake of the police shootings of Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile, I won’t lie and say that I feel lost, and unable to really describe my feelings on these revolving instances of unnecessary black deaths. Yesterday morning, after watching the video of the shooting death of Alton Sterling, I attempted to go about my day as planed, in spite of the fact that I was severely upset, and grieving for this man. My friend, seeing my glassy eyes and visible distress, asked me what was wrong, to which I then showed them my Facebook status, because talking about it was entirely too hard to do. Their response, (to which I realize was made out of genuine concern), was “Jordan, you can’t take on the burdens of the world.” While I know this person didn’t mean any harm, it was the first of many instances where I would hear this, and things similar to it throughout the day. I really wanted to use this as a teaching moment for those who don’t understand, so allow me to retort:

  1. While it would be lovely to not take on the burdens of the world, a basic, and undeniable truth is that the world doesn’t want me here, for the sole reason that I am black. I’m also educated. Double whammy.
  2. I am a black woman, with three brothers, an uncle, and a young cousin who is growing up in this world, all of whom I love dearly, and fear for their lives every single day.
  3. I am a black woman, who loves and engages in relationships with black men. I fear for their lives every single day.

In case any of the above isn’t clear, allow me to expand on the three above statements. As a black woman living in 2016, there are three fundamental fears that I live with:

  1. That one day, this seemingly endless violence will impact someone that I love. I don’t want to join the club of sisters, mothers, girlfriends, and wives that have had to stand stoically at podiums, or in front/behind cameras as they fall apart internally, due to someone’s recklessness, carelessness, and prejudice.
  2. That one day, I will have to explain to my children the perils of living while black, while simultaneously teaching them to try to live their fullest lives. I will have to teach them to believe in the law, even though the legal system was not built for them, and clearly doesn’t believe in, nor care about their protection.
  3. That ultimately, this can happen to me.


So, dear white people,

please don’t try to comfort us in saying that these things are beyond the scope of things we should worry about, when these are things WE LIVE with every single day. DO NOT tell me that “all lives matter” when the black ones are the ones that seem to matter the least. DO NOT tell me that things are changing, when I see the same exact story with different characters play out day by day. I say this all with love, but I need you all to understand you are NOT helping. These are my concerns, and they won’t go away just for your comfort.

My people are DYING.

I’m scared.

Recognize our woes.

Let us grieve.

– J

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