I guess I understand the compulsion to find somewhere to engage this national conversation, even if that space is shoehorned. It feels sometimes like double dutch, as if white people are waiting on the sidewalk for a cue to jump in. And today’s best seller lists are stocked with guidebooks for navigating this terrain. Two of the most popular picks — “How to Be an Antiracist” and “So You Want to Talk About Race”— are by my friends. But I doubt either author wishes to be SCAR-bombed at Jiffy Lube.
The white people who do this don’t realize (or maybe just don’t give a damn) that we’re on different timelines. You learned yesterday what white privilege means? Great! Welcome to 1962. This, however, doesn’t mean I need to engage you about it today. Or tomorrow. Or ever. And most important, maybe I’m out walking, shopping or playing with my children, or out just, I don’t know, staring at a fire hydrant because I want to give myself a break from writing about, from speaking about, from thinking about and from raging about racism, and you’re asking me to work for you for free. And that’s what it is: work. Free labor. An absolution device for your conscience, provided by me, shipped for free. There’s nothing inherently valuable for me out of that exchange. I don’t have a bucket list. But if I did, a 17-minute conversation about lynching, while in line for ice cream, wouldn’t be on it.