Charleston and Racism

I am a mixed-heritage middle-class Black woman living in the northern United States. I want to express that no amount of education or material privilege protects a Black person in the United States from the brutality of racism.

All of us Black leaders in RC have achieved a measure of success. We have learned how to navigate white-dominated institutions. We have learned how to have attention for white people. We have learned how to have good lives for ourselves.

I think this sometimes confuses our allies. It is reassuring to them to see us doing so well. They forget how hard we are working to navigate racism—for ourselves and on behalf of many people we love—every day.

I am considered a “successful” Black woman by middle-class U.S. standards. I have light-colored skin and can move freely in middle-class institutions. I am college educated. I have a middle-class job. I support myself financially as a single woman. I own my own home. My white mother and her parents left money behind when they died, leaving me with a measure of white privilege.

But I am always expected to provide significant financial and emotional support to the Black friends and family I love. I do not personally know any white people of a similar class background who have anything like this experience.

In recent months, this has meant opening my home to someone who can’t pay rent, helping loved ones keep their cars or their homes, sending money and clothes to someone in jail, paying someone’s college tuition, and offering lots of sessions on hopelessness, despair, grief, and rage.

My friends of other racial backgrounds with similar middle-class status or jobs do not seem to have this many people in close to them who are struggling in this way.

The Charleston shooting* was truly a brutal terrorist act. But it is just a reminder of the destructiveness of the racism aimed at people of African heritage every single day.

I hope that you will use this opportunity to make contact with all of the Black people you know and love—in and out of RC. Remind us that you are thinking about us. Remind us that you care about us. Please offer to listen to us as much as you can.

It has been difficult for me and other Black people in my RC Community to discharge about the events in Charleston. We are numb. We live in a city where more than four hundred people—most of them Black—are murdered every single year. (Chicago has more shootings each year than New York and Los Angeles combined.)

Let’s use this chance to fight any of the messages of racism that separate us. Please stay close to all of us Black people—during this time, and always.

We can all decide to remember that we love and need each other.

Alysia Tate

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

* On June 17, 2015, a young white man shot and killed nine Black people attending a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. The senior pastor of the church, State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney, was among those killed. The shooter later confessed to committing the murders in hopes of igniting a race war.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00