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.
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.
I DO NOT AT ALL NEED WHITE PEOPLE TO FEEL MY PAIN.
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.