I’m writing this post in response to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many more people of color who have been murdered because of white supremacist values and ideals in the US.

I’ve seen a well-intentioned post circulating on social media, particularly catalyzed by the brutal murder or George Floyd, which states:

“I see no color” is not the goal.

“I see your color and I honor you. I value your input. I will be educated about your lived experiences. I will work against the racism that harms you. You are beautiful. Tell me how to do better.”

That is the goal.

For me—and for all white people, I will argue—”tell me how to do better” should not, and can not, be our goal. While I believe that the sentiment of this statement is well-intentioned (and I will fully admit that I empathized when I first saw this post), upon further consideration, it is highly problematic—especially when we take even a basic history of racial relations into account.

The “tell me” statement is problematic because, at its core, it is extractionary. It treats people of color (POC) as mere objects, resources or tools that we (white people) learn from: we extract the knowledge and experiences we need, and then we leave and pursue our own agendas. It is time for us to stop treating POC as tools and resources. We have done so for hundreds of years—we quite literally built this nation and its economics upon black chattel slavery. And within the system of black chattel slavery, we valued women of color only for their ability to reproduce, to have children and to expand our workforce of slaves.1

It is well past the time for us to end this extractionary relationship with POC and to truly become collaborators, allies, co-conspirators, and more. Instead of saying, “Tell me how to do better,” let us instead ask:

  • Do you have enough mental and emotional capital to help me with a racial question that is difficult for me (a white person) to grasp?
    • If not, that is okay. I appreciate your honesty.
  • Are you willing and able to help me understand how I can be a better, more empathetic human being?
    • If not, that is okay. I appreciate your honesty.
  • How can I best support you during this time of white supremacist violence?

Finally, these are not questions, but rather statements that I believe we should all make:

I see you. I value you. I love you. I am here for you. I hope I can do you (and everyone else) justice. I will learn how to do, and to be, better.

  1. See Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).