Posted on June 1, 2020

White Americans, Your Lack of Imagination is Killing Us

Kasi Lemmons, Washington Post, June 1, 2020


{snip} But when it comes to black life in America, there’s only one conclusion I can reach about some white people: You don’t care to put yourself in our shoes. The consequences of this lack of imagination for black Americans are deadly.

It’s no secret that you like our music, our style, our swagger. You admire our athleticism, our beauty. Things you can sample without diving too deep, without knowing too much. Without fear of being scarred. You would rather be a tourist; you prefer to dip your toes in our culture without really understanding it.

That, or you’re addicted to the pornography of our pain. {snip}

If you see us only when we’re a source of diversion, or only when we are victims who satisfy your taste for violence or death, then you don’t see us as fully human. If you don’t have much interest in how we live and love, you’ll never understand what we’re fighting to preserve. If you ignore the cost of our survival and achievements — paid in the stinking bowels of slave ships and on plantations where we were beaten, raped and separated from our children, in the prison-industrial complex and in neighborhoods abandoned by politicians and ravaged by police — you’ll never understand the true measure of what we’ve accomplished.

White people have never needed to exercise that kind of curiosity. You’ve never had to. You can live your whole lives without really considering how we live ours.


Now imagine that even now, after everything we’ve survived and accomplished, after we’ve built this country with our sweat and blood, our backs and brains, after we’ve sacrificed our lives in every war that has ever been fought for America, this country is still not safe for us. {snip}


Maybe that explains this lack of white imagination: The price of truly understanding black life in America is just too high. That understanding demands too much. If you felt this rage yourself, you would have to acknowledge what caused it, and what it makes you want to do.

But while rage can lead to tragedy, it is also a terrible thing to waste. Rage can be useful, necessary even. It fuels our pride and lubricates our resilience. With discipline and unity, rage can change the world. So be enraged with us and for us. If you’re unwilling to do that, know this: You can look away all you want. But we see you.