The other day, I had a white man become defensive and argumentative after I posted an Instagram reel discussing what equality means. This man felt the need to, essentially, tell me that I am being overdramatic. He felt that there is in fact equality in this country, and the only barriers that I, or any other person of color, face are the ones inside my mind.
While there were so many things wrong with what he said, he remained respectful (for the most part) when we discussed this. This made me think, “why not dissect our conversation, so people can genuinely understand the tactics and ignorance many operate from when trying to dispute fights for human rights?” And that is exactly what I am choosing to do.
My initial post stated that many white people equate equality to redefining hierarchies of power, rather than abolishing them. For some reason, many white people feel as though for Black people to be equal, they must lose somehow. I went on to discuss that yes, there is accountability, responsibilities, and justice that must be addressed; however, this doesn’t mean that Black people will be superior. It is to ensure that we can be equal.
Within an hour of this post, this white man replied with, “Blah, blah, blah,” to which I responded with, “if you would like to have a respectful conversation, I am more than happy to discuss this.” Obviously, he had to discuss further… or prove himself to be right, I should say.
He begins to list a series of instances in which Black people “broke out of” the oppressive systems that make us inferior. I then informed him that these individuals did succeed, to some extent, yet this did not erase the systems that oppress us, or account for the millions still suffering. I proceeded to provide examples of the ways in which we are exposed to inequality every day, such as police brutality, inequal pay, or even the banning of certain literature. I finished my statement by saying, from my experience, some white people are more interested in prioritizing their comfort than learning and seem to fear, well, entirely misunderstand, the concept of equality.
He continued to push the narrative that we (Black people) are not facing any oppression. In fact, there are no obstacles, according to him because it is nothing he can see (this is privilege at its finest). And to push it one step further, he asked that I please not assume how he feels as a white person.
Not only did this man just make this entire conversation about him, by insinuating that he is the victim because I had the audacity to state that SOME white people struggle with this concept, but he talked himself in circles. I am not allowed to tell a white person how they may feel, yet he, a white man, is allowed to tell me, and every Black person, that our experiences, our trauma, is invalid because it is something HE has not experienced and does not see. Ironic, am I right?
This is a common tactic. Rather than taking ownership or exploring different narratives, when faced with confrontation, some white people will attempt to shift the focus from Black feelings and experiences, to their own. Not only is this gaslighting, or making Black people feel that there is nothing wrong and we are being overdramatic, but it is made to inspire guilt in the other person for even daring to respectfully challenge systems. His hypocrisy, and inability to see beyond the white gaze, made him feel as though I am not allowed to tell him how he is feeling, despite him doing the exact same.
Finally, I shared a resource to him, so he could begin truly recognizing the ways in which inequalities and inequities are still alive and well in this country. There was no way to argue this, and he knew that. So, instead, he let me know he would be, “respectfully moving on from my account.”
He knew he was wrong, but his pride got in the way of him learning and evolving. This is just a reminder that if you become defensive of something, it is usually because it holds some truth or resonates in some way. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means there are things to explore and learn.