Dear White People

By: Audrey Addison Williams

I realize that it may be politically incorrect to name, in this very direct manner, “White People” as the audience I address in this radical and urgent call to action. At the same time, I am increasingly aware that political correctness is killing us and serves as a barrier to authentic dialogue and diminishes our collective will to engage for the purpose of achieving a deeper understanding and greater awareness.

Though we are indeed family and because of slavery, we share blood ties, there is a stark contrast between our lived experience of having been born, living and dying in these United States of America. I also realize that for a dominant culture to persist and to even thrive for so long a time, there has been and continues to be “buy in” to the ideology of White Supremacy and Patriarchy as a norm sanctioned by God Himself. However, for me this is VERY personal and I ask for your attention and consideration of what I share. For, it is my deepest desire to influence, invite and perhaps even inspire you to a sustained commitment to find and reclaim some authentic connection to me, to us, to one another; that results in a new American dream and a new American story.

Therefore, I write not from an “us vs them” perspective, rather I write as YOU for I am educated to be YOU and YOU are among my best friends and supporters. I own fully and I accept that what Maya Angelou says is true “whatever one human being has done I have done, whatever one person is capable of I am also capable.”

While assimilation into mainstream culture for my generation has been more often bitter than sweet, I also acknowledge that I have failed miserably again and again to live out my highest sense of right and have much work to do to achieve a coherence that results from living in integrity. I have experienced the power and clarity from connecting with my intuitive feminine wisdom. And I have acted in ways that are inconsistent with my heart’s desire to live a life of service.

The price I have paid for living an inauthentic life, alienated from my deepest longings and unconscious of my deeper motives is far too high to continue this painful existence not fully alive and lacking the will to choose life in abundance and in joy.

As a black person in America born in the ’50s, I have a masters level education in how to sing and dance to the tune that you choose and to be flexible and resilient enough to adjust my rhythm to match yours when you change melodies in the middle of the duet. As a young child in school, I received recognition and acknowledgment, because I learned well, your story and I became quite good at deconstructing your literature and unwrapping diverse aspects of our collective culture in ways that did not make you too uncomfortable.

I have adopted your ways, and the mental confusion and inertia that cripples your very soul threatens my existence and I am clinging tightly to a distant memory of our soul connection. While, I am absolutely clear that your survival is inextricably tied to mine, I am fearful that you nor I have the tools or skills to chart a safe path out of the wilderness of our perceived powerlessness and fearful thoughts.

What i know for sure is that I desperately NEED you to survive.

At the same time, I must get YOU off my eyeballs. I need to learn how to see again, how to hear again and how to FEEL. In the dismantling of White Supremacy and Patriarchy what do I do with this hard earned Eurocentric way of seeing and being in the World? I MUST reclaim my inner life, I must reconnect with my own pure soul and I must tell my own Story. And I must tell it in my own voice and in my own way.

I address you as my sisters, my brothers, my elders and my ancestors in a very complex dance that we have done together now for more than 200 years. I realize that because of you and your intellectual curiosity, your passion for information and your often, unbridled and ruthless pursuit of things, I have benefited. And from you, I learned the power of ideas and creative imagination. As a result of my middle class lifestyle as a U.S. citizen I have enjoyed many privileges.I have traveled extensively and each time upon returning home, I am far more appreciative of this imperfect, dysfunctional, chaotic, static, and often toxic relationship that I have with you, my sister, my brother, my daughter, my friend, my very self.

Life as an American, has always been an experience of both the agony and the ecstasy and, it seems the gulf between us is widening. I FEEL the loss of a sense of connection as we have moved so far away from one another and our innermost selves that we live daily with a nagging emptiness, a sadness on the cellular level and a profound sense of despair. There is a real and present danger that our collective legacy could end as the greatest of all human tragedies. In a time of unprecedented scientific, medical and technological advances, we are without an antibiotic capable of ridding our bodies, minds and souls from a raging virus, an autoimmune affliction brought on by a pervasive and consistent refusal to BE who we are and to Know what we know.

As a result of a pattern of behavior that includes inability or refusal to speak, we have lost our voice and perhaps our will as well. We do not have the energy to even express our own individual and collective misery. We are frail and weak from the vicious and sustained attack on our individual and collective souls. In our refusal to speak truth and to live truth our collective immune system has been weakened.

We are each caught, it seems in a daily existence of unconscious thoughts and actions. Long ago, we stopped pretending that we were happy. In fact happiness, seems not worth aspiring for, in this highly toxic socio political environment. Survival, competition, aggression and incessant activity fill our days. Together, we have created and perpetuate a culture of lies, deceit, indifference and at times it seems we have lost the will to intercede on our own behalf. .

Still, HOPE stirs within me and I reach in and go deep to find the words to express the feelings and to issue this call to you my family to ACT in faith with courage and focused intention, to open your hearts, to care in ways that result in personal and collective suffering AND to courageously embrace that suffering fully aware that we lift as we climb AND we are responsible not just for the survival of ourselves and our immediate families, we are responsible for the survival of our species.

I love you and I hate you and I suffer often quietly and privately. I have years of experience of wearing a mask, of smiling when my heart is breaking to laugh when the truth is I have not been able to sleep for days, because I can’t stop crying. I feel like I am drowning in a sea of sorrow for my black son, for my 16 year old grandson who is brilliant yet labeled a behavior problem when he was just 8. I ache for the families of the those killed and the families of the perpetrators. I am torn between my allegiance to my blackness and to the whiteness that stands now more than ever as a major contradiction to my continued evolution of consciousness. My black girlfriends unfriend me sometimes monthly because they say I am weak, I am vague, I am less than forthright and I have therefore become a part of the problem or the reason for the problems and challenges that people of color face. Almost daily there is evidence to suggest that the life of a dog is of greater value than a black man and yes even a 14 year old black girl clad only in a bikini. The levels of feelings, the depth of my sadness and the extent of my personal suffering is nothing compared to the gnawing and persistent question, I am afraid to ask myself. ” Am I a part of the problem or the reason for the many challenges my people face in America. Has my inability to achieve clarity of vision and to feel and still act, negated my personal and spiritual power to know and to act in wisdom when action is demanded?”

How do I tell you, my experience of living 62 years as a black woman in America? How do I convey my inner terror, my fear, my rage and my confusion in the face of the almost weekly occurrences of police brutality, executing black men who are unarmed and running away? What do I say to touch your heart and pierce the strong armor behind which you hide? My bullshit monitor and my air purifier both need rechargeable batteries as I fight to breathe. Daily, it is hard for me to breathe. I must speak or I will lose my ability to speak. If I do not with love and courage, speak my truth to you, and ask you to be kind enough to listen, I cease to live with dignity.I cannot look my grandchildren in the eyes because I have failed to lead, I have failed to guide, I have failed to offer them hope and encouragement

And truth be told, it is far easier to write to you than to bare my soul to my brothers and sisters of color. The pain is no less intense when I am honest enough to admit that my black brothers and sisters lack the clarity, the will and the courage to move beyond protest and instead build with our young a legacy of economic empowerment and self reliance. Yes, we too, are crippled by our education, blinded by our selfishness and limited by our perceptions of ourselves as less than. I write because the burden and the complexity of this dual identify and the ambivalence I feel from you when I seek to share my deepest fears a is at times, almost too much to bear.

I challenge myself as I challenge you. I speak truth to you realizing that the truth I speak is also the truth about me. I confront our collective failure to act in ways that uplift and enhance life. The values we embrace are counterproductive to our collective survival. I issue an urgent call that echoes from the depths of our souls to value life in all it’s forms and to value the Earth and allow nature to teach, heal, inform and guide us.

I want to be held accountable and I must hold you to the same level of accountability. I want to be in relationship with you based on truth telling, based on kindness, based on a desire to understand and to be understood. I ask you to speak truth, I invite you to reclaim your voice and
seek first to nurture yourself in ways that bring the outer into alignment with the inner.

Together, let us demonstrate the will to break through inertia in service to radical truth telling, radical forgiveness and radical love. I call forth the Divine Essence that is the real you and I accept that I am also Divine Essence and I commit to living out from that awareness. I offer myself and I am willing to make the necessary adjustments in thought, behavior and actions so that I live according to my highest understanding.

I am you. You are me. Yes, we are indeed one. How do we live out of a deep and profound awareness of our oneness? Not by being color blind, not by refusing to acknowledge the mistakes and failures of our past and certainly not by projecting our self hatred, shame and guilt onto others. I have FELT the pain and suffering of waking up and the struggle to stay awake. What I know for sure is that to be able to feel and embrace pain is a gift and preferable to an existence void of feeling and soul connections.

I have had to face the fact that I have caused others to suffer and I have inflicted pain, and I know how tempting it is to wallow in shame and remorse when faced with the darkness and meanness of my own actions. I also know that nothing changes until and unless I consciously choose to accept responsibility for my thoughts and my actions as well as acknowledge that I have failed to act when action was necessary. I forgive myself. I ask your forgiveness. I offer you the sweet fragrance of forgiveness and humbly ask that we start anew.

The road forward is through the wilderness of self hatred, sloth, inertia, fear, shame, guilt and confusion. What I know for sure is that we are worth it, We are worth the effort, we are worth the time, we are worth the attention required to make a radical correction in the ways in which we live together on Earth. I walk towards you, each of you with a smile in my eyes and the Light of forgiveness radiating between us. I offer you my open heart and outstretched hands. There is no other way.

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