About 4 years ago, after an experience at a training I was assisting a former liberal white female friend who was leading a training (where I was one of perhaps 3 Black Women out of the hundreds of women who were actually in the yoga retreat center that weekend), where, after I shared some racially insensitive moments I endured with her in an attempt to just release tension…she said to me… “Yes. I know. I know because, you know I have had past lives and in one of them I know, I mean I really know that I was a black woman enslaved on a slave ship in one of my past lives.” And then she proceeded to tell me some long drawn out story about herself and the challenges she faces as a woman in America based on that alleged past life experience. It was late at night. I was beyond uncomfortable and so I excused myself and went to bed.
At the time, I had known this woman for several years and had let several small racially insensitive interactions with her go without ever even mentioning them. When I’d try to call her out on her liberal racism, she would just discount what I was saying and use some spiritual mumbo-jumbo to justify her bad actions. I’ve grown up around white people and have been the one black person in the room for most of my life so I became accustomed to letting a lot of shit go and just working on the friendship beyond race.
I didn’t know it then, but I realize now… I…was…a social justice Mammy!
I would be the one black friend in a group of white friends at a dinner party who would be the impromptu “race educator”during the Obama Administration. Defending whatever was going on politically while explaining the plight of African Americans for my liberal white feminist friends. Even though race wasn’t the focus of the gatherings… I was there and I was black and I, was one of the good ones. So if a liberal white female friend was having a challenge with a black woman at work or had a question about anything to do with race… they felt comfortable talking to me about it. I saw myself as someone who could bring the races together so I would have the difficult conversations. (Ha ha) I mean I was a corporate diversity awareness trainer in the early 00’s!
What I didn’t realize was that I was being in service as the liberal white woman’s emotional Mammy, but really…that’s what was happening.
That “past live slave ship conversation” was my Ah-Ha moment. I had to stop being the one Black woman in the room and I had to stop taking emotional care of liberal white women.
I completed the assisting the workshop, and removed myself from that woman’s trainings and that entire majority white, liberal, feminist, yoga/dance community.
Once I cut that chord I felt an overwhelming freedom. Once I cut that chord there were no more white women calling me to mine me of my wisdom, my joy, to appropriate my ideas without wanting to pay me my worth. Once I cut that chord, phenomenal African American Women started appearing in my life. Once I cut that chord Awesome White women who were clued in started coming into my life. I call all these women my Abolitionists.
The African American Abolitionists who appeared in my life valued me and without hesitation, paid me well for my services and…were authentic friends unconditionally. The White liberal Abolitionists were there for me without needing me to be their emotional crutch or their “one black friend to help them believe that they were not racist.”
And… the drama, the feelings of discomfort, the trying to fit and not fitting in, the feeling that I wasn’t being understood, respected or heard that had been a part of my friendships and relationships in NYC were gone.
Once I realized I was being a social Justice Mammy and stopped taking emotional care of white women and my heart started to heal, my mind became clear and I could more easily connect to my authentic joy.
Then, we got a new president.
And Charlottesville happened and systemic racism and blatant bigotry are now front and center in our culture and liberal white folks are freaking the fuck out.
I’ve been getting texts or even live phone messages from many of the former white friends I stopped initiating connections with.
The calls or messages start with “you’ve been on my mind”.
By the way…
America was built by white people forcing Black People to take care of them and pretending that black people love to nurture. This country is designed to pound white supremacy into it’s white children so that the expectation of, particularly white women, to be automatically nurtured by black women, particularly dark skinned black women, is just how the white world works.
Okay back to my point…
As these former friends call to reconnect and seek some sort of comfort from their one legitimate like black, black former friend, and when they speak with me, and when they say the stupid subtle racist shit they have always said to me, and I call them out directly on the stupid subtle racist shit, they have a rude awakening and are shocked! They call me angry and rude. They wonder what happened to their friend who was so nurturing?
And when I speak with them, I feel not the anger they immediately push on me when I’m direct, I feel that mix of discomfort, that dealing with having to do the mental gymnastics it takes to care for the fragile white Liberal female ego. Because, you see, these types of personalities always find ways to make every conversation about their experience and their “trauma”.
That mix of discomfort that comes from having to care for the fragile white ego is what is distracting Black people from taking care of ourselves. That weight of having to be extra whatever in order for the white person to feel comfortable around a black person is, I strongly believe, the seed of many illnesses that are killing African Americans young.
I was having a good old time today at Sweetgreen eating my favorite salad sitting on a bench outside in the sunshine when I got a message from a former liberal white female feminist friend I’ve not called saying I was on her mind.
As our conversation escalated I took a breath and did an emotional mind body scan.
As she was talking I thought… does this situation feel good? Am I feeling nurtured? Is this a relationship that will make me a better person? What do I feel in my body?
I noticed I felt all tingly around my sinuses and there was a pounding in the base of my skull where my skull balances on my spine. My heart was pounding, I was clutching my hands and my brow was furrowing. And when I spoke back to her I was really loud.
In the middle her doing the white girl thing she (and other) white liberal female friends have done to me dozens of times before in our friendship, attempting to justify the micro aggression I had called her out on, I decided to interrupt her and opt out of the relationship. I thanked her for her help and friendship in the past. Said I loved her, because I do love everyone, and said the friendship was over. We hung up and I deleted and blocked her number. (This action is more for my own sake because I’m a wussy and often time second guess myself and call people and apologize. Blocking the number and deleting the interaction forces me to stand with my decision)
Once I took those actions, I immediately felt a wave of calm wash over my mind body and I felt at peace. I felt light. I went back to enjoying the sunshine…and my salad.
If my friends of any race, can’t take me as I am, they aren’t really friends and we can move on without wasting any more time.
This call today hasn’t been the first time a former white liberal friend from my past has reached out to get their old social justice Mammy to soothe their discomfort. I’m grateful she called me today because this call inspired me to just go public and announce to the world that social justice Mammy has been working out. She’s lost all that fat and is now fit and focused on nurturing herself first, then her immediate family then the black women and girls in her community.
White people need to stop looking to Black Women to nurture, lead and educate them. Our resources are depleted we need to revitalize. Please, don’t waste our time with your white guilt. Get on google and find the resources you need to learn whatever you need to learn about your whiteness and systemic racism. Once you do your work and evolve to the level of Abolitionist…then we can start having some conversations.
Social Justice Mammy is dead.
And the Black Woman who has replaced her is laser focused, particularly now, on nurturing Black Women and Girls and our communities.
These are just two of the many situations where white folks I used to know have “reached out” to me to soothe their white guilt.
The liberal white former friend who I assisted did a reach out via email to me earlier this summer to find out why our relationship ended. When I was direct with her about her “past life experience as an enslaved African woman”, comments, she tried to do some “whitesplaning” and fell in line with the behavior I mentioned above, so I clearly cut the chord and ended the friendship for good.
Our lifetimes are short. African Americans are dying at the average age of 65. We need to care for ourselves better, we can’t always be doing the heavy lifting for the benefit of other groups.
Resources/ Workshops & Courses for White Women who want to educate themselves on systemic racism:
Off the Mat and into the world