That's your work...take it on...or continue to be a part of the problem. I believe in a really profound way that fear, guilt, the need to have a black person explain the nature of the problem to you is a way for you to avoid looking at very painful truths that are alive and well inside you and all the people close to you. And until you take that nasty laundry out and look at it, you are the problem that is racism in white America.
Here's what I learned after being a black woman who happened to fall in love with two different white men once, in my twenties and again in my 30's. I met the families and I said each time, the minute your family learns that this is a serious relationship, they are going to have a problem with my race. My respective white partners swore to the high heavens that their parents were liberals with black friends and were absolutely not racist in any way. Both of these sincere, lovely earnest men could not see the racism starring them in the face. They tried to explain away their parents refusing to shake my hand the first time we met, they dismissed the comments from relatives who pulled me aside at dinner parties and warned me in no uncertain terms, "Well, you know we marry Jewish in this family." They dismissed being seated near the kitchen at restaurants. They simply dismissed the possibility that racism was at play in their lives. After, all, they were dating a black girl, so they were in the clear, right?
Both of those relationships ended because the weight of the each white families disapproval was weighing these two young men down. They wrote them letters, called family meetings imploring them not to get serious with a black woman because the world was going to make it so hard for a mixed race couple. When really, it was the parents who were making the world so hard. The relationships were crushed under the weight of the parents' racism and my partners' denial. White denial and proclaimed ignorance are passive, aggressive forms of racism. Because they allow and encourage it's existence.
One of those men came back to me years later to apologize for allowing their parents racism to split us up. He felt great remorse for letting that come between us and the great love of his life. I felt sadness and there it sat on the table, shall we try again. And I took a deep breath, thought about the Black woman/Jewish man couple that were our friends. How he took a stand with his parents and pushed his parents out of his life until they came to terms with their racism. He forbid them any contact with their black grandchildren because he wanted to save his children from the taint of racism from their grandparents. And I turned to him and said,
"I loved you like no other. I wanted to have your children and build a life together. But then I thought about moving to the suburbs with you and my kids coming home talking about being called niggers and you trying to write that off instead of stand up for your kid's blackness. And I realized, when you marry a black person, in some way, you're choosing to live in the experience of Blackness in America and if you're not willing to wage that fight for yourself, then you would leave our children in the cold trying to justify bullshit that would ruin their lives, their sense of self and value. If you couldn't stand up for us, how were you going to stand up for our children? And I would kill you if you left our children standing alone at the edges of this battlefield. So, no. This is the end. I need a warrior, not a liberal in denial. I need a person who stands up for what is right and calls out those who are wrong even when they are close to home."
Because learning about how race and privilege works and then holding your white loved ones accountable is where the real truth of who you are lives. That's the hard part. If more white folks held each other accountable instead of running to black folks to make them feel better about racism. There wouldn't be any racism. So you, not doing your job is at the heart of this problem. And that's your job, not mine. That's your work, not mine. I've learned how to survive this world, navigate a white world, and move beyond what's comfortable for me as a person. That's my work. Do yours.