L.A. based R&B artist Kelela is over having white people explain how they believe black people should best deal with their pain surrounding issues of systemic racism. In the wake of the most recent police shootings of Keith Lamont Scott and Terence Crutcher, the artist used Instagram to share her thoughts on having her feelings dictated by those who should be listening and supporting instead.
Kelela said in her post that when white people “talk before listening” it shows a disregard for a black person’s ability to address their own realities and experiences with racism. Instead, she says, those who want to be allies should speak to and instruct their white peers on racism and white privilege in order to make real change in dismantling these systems.
Here’s the full text of both of her posts:
Tired of white people telling me what I should and shouldn’t feel. People who are not black need to be listening (not talking or making suggestions) right now. White people: ask your close black friends how you can support them… ask them what they need. If they’re over answering that question, Google “white privilege” and learn about it. Read Tim Wise. Talk about the ideas with your white friends.
A recap, just in case you missed that: Show up when invited. Ask how you can help. Listen. Remember it. Go speak with your friends who aren’t black about what you’ve learned and how YOU will dismantle it. Repeat.
I want to tell you overtly that I don’t want to hear your opinion on what you think should be done. Giving your opinion at the onset of a conversation with a black person is rooted in the notion that we (black folk) aren’t able to analyze and deconstruct our relates — that we haven’t though long and hard about how to address racism. When you talk before listening, you undermine the racism and hatred that we’ve experienced for years that would inform the solutions we’ve already come up with. The thing we can’t tell you how to do is how to speak to your white peers— because your experience of whiteness would inform you on how to best communicate these ideas to your white homies. See how I did that?
That means you gotta call yourself out, let others call you out and be willing to learn from the mistakes you will inevitably make, and then go to your white friends — not us — and talk about it. The system that has me and you feeling shit all the time will only crumble when you and your white peers decide that there’s a really big problem with your complacency of black/brown suffering throughout the world. If you are a person of color who isn’t black (or is black, but still can’t connect), it’s time to weak the fuck up and get that this attack on black people (throughout the world for centuries) has always and will continue to turn into an attack on you.
I think it’s time for white people to own the about face and complacency that they are a part of every day. One of my mentors (that happens to be white) once said that racism isn’t POC’s problem to solve. That if we want white supremacy to be over, white people would have to give up that power/privilege. We’re gonna have a hard time being friends if you’re not willing to use and then relinquish the benefits that you’ve inherited.
The singer has previously spoken out on the need of white people to discuss their privilege within not just American society but globally. In a March interview with The Fader she said:
We have not dealt with racism on a global scale; we have not dealt with white privilege. White privilege is a term that needs to be used by a lot of people in this world, and it’s not used by anyone. I think it’s asking the question to white people, ‘Are you with us? Or are you not with us?’
Kelela’s words remind us that it’s important to center black voices when discussing dealing with the realties of racism, but equally if not more so important to have white allies tackle the messiness of unearned privilege.