Dear White friends,
Thursday was the first nice day of the year, and like any other New Yorker, we decided we would take full advantage of the weather break at our favorite black-owned establishment.
I say “we” because we are together. Brooklyn is your neighborhood (now) too, and we’re friends. One minor, but certainly mentionable side-effect of lock down, is that more people who look like you have discovered the same places I frequented pre-rona. But no big deal -- mi casa has always been su casa.
Now, I did as I normally do.
Grabbed a beer (they were out of sangria) and sat on the nearest steps for free space. You might not know this, but we do this all the time. And not to say the bar doesn’t have a small patio, but the ‘neighbors’ had taken full advantage of that -- I’m sure you didn’t notice.
So as our group grew, we took up a little more space.
Not too much.
Just one step off the stoop.
But clearly, just enough.
And much like the ‘neighbors’ those blue and red lights seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
NYPD: “Let me see all your IDs”
Us: “Is there a problem officers? What did we do?”
NYPD: no response.
I know what you’re thinking. “Here we go again," or maybe “are they serious?”
Yes, yes they are. Very serious actually.
And so am I.
So are we.
You see, although I am fully aware we have done nothing out of the ordinary, I am also aware of what the majority of us are. Because I know this is new for you, I am not upset at you.
I know last summer was an awakening for some of white America, and even if you’ve had black friends your whole life, you still may not be aware of what I am about to say ---
WE DON’T EXPECT YOU TO BE A HERO.
Not then, not now, not ever.
You are by my side because I want you here. Not because I NEED you here.
Don’t get loud with the officers.
Don’t put on a show.
Don’t try to exercise what you think you know about your rights.
Don’t continue to mention I have done nothing wrong, they know that.
You can’t save us from yourselves.
I know one of the officers isn’t white but the system's foundation is.
Follow MY lead.
Do as I do.
I know you're trying to deflect the attention from me, but your presence isn't bigger than the problem.
Let’s talk shit when he walks away.
I know this is fucked up.
I’ve been here before.
More than I would like to admit.
This will be traumatic for me.
I'll think about this the whole ride home.
And yes, we will laugh the rest of the night but another thing you didn’t notice -- I am resilient.
Black people are resilient.
It's in our DNA to laugh to keep from crying.
Now I know the above is a lot to take in.
It comes with practice... which I’ve had my whole life to do.
But when this happens again.
Because if we’re friends, this will happen again.
Come back to this list for guidance.
And the next time you find yourself as a ‘neighbor’ at one of these black-owned bars that has been here long before you discovered it: Make room for us on the patio. Offer a seat. Entertain the idea of the tables on the sidewalks.
We’re not trying to push you out.
It's just this place was created for US to be comfortable in.