*This post was authored by Mo Tester. This post originally appeared on Medium Sept 28, 2016 but has been temporary flagged due to an anonymous report that it violated Medium's policies*
The Worst Kind of Racists
Do you want to know what the worst kind of racist is? The self proclaimed liberals who say all day that Black Lives Matter and that racism is wrong, and yet when confronted directly with their racism, they will defend themselves till kingdom comes that they are not racist.
I went to go pick up Jasmine last night from a friend’s birthday celebration. When I found Jasmine she was deep in conversation with Matt. Matt is on the committee for the Homegrown Festival that is held in Siloam Springs every year. Jasmine was inquiring as to why Homegrown was not doing more to include Latino, Hmong, and other people of color as vendors in the event. This was a conversation she’d had with him before. In the previous conversation he mentioned that he didn’t know if the minoritiy artisans were “on brand” with the festival. Do you know what Dogwhistle Racism is? Why is it always a spread of white people who are showcased at the Homegrown Festival?
Matt’s response was that he has reached out to that community and they said they didn’t want to participate. “It’s their fault,” he said, “They don’t want to participate. I’ve tried. I was unsuccessful. There’s nothing more I can do. That’s not even my job actually. It’s not my job to recruit the vendors, you’re talking to the wrong person.”
I responded by saying, “Well you can do more than what is written in your job description, right? Like if you’re truly committed to racial justice and creating equity within our community, surely you can sacrifice some time and effort into making that happen?”
“I run three profitable businesses. I don’t have time. I need to make money to pay bills. Are you suggesting that I put ALL of my time and effort into reaching out to communities of color??”
“Yes,” I responded. “I think it’s more than fair to say you need to put all of your time and effort into reaching out to communities of color in order to help dismantle systemic racism.”
At this point in the conversation Matt Firebender’s face was so red I thought he was going to explode. Instead of responding he promptly turned his entire body away from me and started ignoring me. I asked him if the conversation was over and he said yes. Cool, got it.
Did you see what just happened? A white man was confronted with his own racism and he nearly exploded. You want me to sacrifice how much for people of color?!? All of it?!? That’s too much. I don’t actually care about it that much. What makes this worse is that Jasmine, a queer Black woman, was being berated by this person at a table full of people. Zero people said anything. Our Black loved ones and other people of color must face the onslaught of micro-aggressions every single day. This kind of race-based trauma takes a toll on them. We have to do better. Someone should have said something, but I walked up and saw my fiancé being flooded with micro-aggressions and I was the only one willing to step in.
Matt, like many folks in Siloam Springs who are willing to engage in online debates about racism, but not actually do anything, is a White Savior. The problem of being a White Savior is when it actually starts to cost you something, you engage in your white privilage to check out. Maybe you’re ok with spending a little time and effort here and there to make sure you’ve checked off all the necessary things that need to be checked off before you can say “Black Lives Matter.” But set the risk factor any higher than that and you will literally see someone’s entire body turn away from you. When you ask a white person to make financial sacrifices, you’ve gone too far. They won’t be willing to sacrifice that much for Black people and people of color. If you ask them to change the standard of product at an event like the Homegrown Festival to be more inclusive of minority communities within our town, they won’t listen. If you ask them to give up their power and their privilege, you might as well expect to be doing the work alone. If you ask them to recognize how their micro-aggressions are harmful to the person of color next to them, they’ll claim they were provoked.
White Saviorism doesn’t work because it’s not real. It’s fake activism backed by empty promises in order to promote whiteness. White Saviors worship the god of White Comfort. And that’s what I experienced last night. I sat across from my beautiful Black fiancé as she was yelled at by a white man named Matt Feyeraband who couldn’t recognize his own privilege and how he could use it to actually dismantle racism here in Siloam. I won’t be attending the Homegrown Festival, I don’t know if me and my family are “on brand”.
Want to know the final kicker? Matt asked Jasmine to do the work for him. “Why aren’t you inviting them,” he asked her. He told a woman of color to do the work of dismantling racism because he was too busy running three businesses. He blamed her for there not being more diversity at an event that she’s not even involved in planning. If that’s not white privilege summed up in a paragraph, I don’t know what is.
Watch out for White Saviors. They are the worst kind of racists.