White People, I Don’t Need You to “Feel My Pain”

After the racist executions of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, many white people are reaching out to Black folk asking us what it is they need to do. These sentiments are not sincere; a quick Google search will tell all these well-intentioned white allies what they can and need to do in pursuit of Black Liberation. Another Google search will tell them why their questions to Black mourning bodies is inappropriate, self-centered, and a grotesque exercise of white privilege.

But there is a brand of white ally theater that has since graduated from the stale question of “what can I do to help.” Having learned the harm of requesting/demanding that Black folks guide them in their activism (especially without compensation), they are now telling us that they “feel our pain” and are imploring their white skinfolk to do the same.

Fuck no.

I’ve noticed some Black folk are — to some degree — amenable to this course of action. In a minute corner of Black rage comes a desire to see white folk equally upset and traumatized. We are not a monolithic community; we do not share the exact same experiences, value systems, theories of change, or analysis of anti-Blackness.

So I am speaking on behalf of myself.


To me, the need to have white people “feel my pain” equates to the need for white validation of Black grief, trauma, and pain. That somehow, my Black pain is not real or justified until white people experience it and say that it is. That somehow, I am mourning in a void, and thus need white folks to come through and bestow visibility.

And I ain’t with that shit.

Furthermore, it is impossible for white people to feel Black pain. They can witness, consume, and/or be moved by Black pain … but they can never empathize, feel, or experience it. They will NEVER understand the anger, exhaustion, worthlessness, or numbness that many, if not all, Black people experience due to our lived existence in an anti-Black system deliberately designed to hunt, surveil, and kill Black bodies. Even respectable ass Black people know and experience these feelings, hence why they make sure to dress and speak “properly” for fear they’ll be hunted by the carceral state.

And despite what a crackpot yoga instructor told them, you need to experience emotions before you can feel them. 

The bloodthirsty need for white “allies” to go on about how they “feel our pain” is an insult. It is faux solidarity and social media posturing. It is false sympathy. It is white-centered saviorism. It’s a way from them to encroach upon Black space and uniqueness.

So lemme tell you something white people … I don’t need your validation of or encroachment upon my pain. Don’t try me … because if it is impossible for you to experience Black pain, then you fo’ damn sure don’t know Black rage.


Photo on 6-15-14 at 12.18 PMArielle, Head Girl of Ravenclaw. See me @arielle_newton. See us @BlkMillennials.


9 responses to “White People, I Don’t Need You to “Feel My Pain”

  1. I am concerned for you. I know being an old lady guest on your sight may mean I’m not completely understanding. But, this post feels so like what I encountered in the 60s and 70s, in that again the focus is “white people.” You are very good at spotting societal traps. Please don’t be ensnared by this one. Let us find a way to be monolithic on the issue of stopping police murders, if on no other. Otherwise, we will forever go round and round in a circular trench of white people this and white people that! Not a particularly productive perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We have to understand that this can be an article *for* all white people without being a blanket statement *about* all white people. The author is using particular “if and then” statements. That is to say “if a white person does this, then they are being selfish, not sympathetic”. If I don’t fall under the first category, then they aren’t talking about me, and I don’t fall under the second category. If I do fall under that first category, then I need to stop and listen to the conversation again, so that I can be a better ally.


  2. …..and the pregnant black woman that was slammed to the ground by racist cops and called “a fat bastard.” Sandra Bland and other black women and girls murdered by policeman. What about the black women who are being gunned down??? Black Women are being injured and murdered by law enforcement just as much as black men and boys. Why do we have to remind black people not to forget the black women and girls who are gunned down???

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for your article – it made me think and opened my eyes a little more. 🙂

    I see a lot of people foaming and being angry about your article – for me it shone a light on the truth. In this day and age we’re very image driven and keen always to be right and always radiating a public image; what is undervalued these days is ‘listening’…

    When you are in the privilege bubble to the extent that a lot of white people are (speaking as one), it’s like being in the matrix: It blinds you to reality and you can’t see your privs until your eyes are opened. As that bubble is slowly bursting it feels a lot like an attack, and that can stop you hearing. Again, stop the rage and try listening…


  4. Arielle, thank you for this article. I will be sharing it. I am a white woman in my late 30s and in no way do I “feel your pain.” I can’t imagine living with the everyday struggles that black people live with. White privilege in evident in all aspects of our society and anyone who claims differently is naive. I think that my perspective is different than most white people’s because I am a therapist. I have been taught, time and time again, that I can never ever understand what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes unless I have walked in them. Trust me, there are some white people who want to help and we are trying to figure out the best way to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Ally Implies Action: #BlackLivesMatter – Positive Force Strength Training·

  6. “What can I do to help?”
    Go educate yourself on the subject and then you don’t have to ask. And stop with pointless displays of empathy that offer no constructive action.

    That is what I took away from this post.


  7. Pingback: #WhitePrivilegeIs | South Seattle Emerald·

Share Your Truth

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s