Sean, here ya go.
1. Re: the public disagreement about cultural appropriation
It’s a sad and unfortunate to see two talented and passionate women of color who have very different points of view tear into one another. Cultural (mis)appropriation is a bit out of my wheelhouse. I will not be an arbiter here. My hope is that in time, with perspective and a willingness to listen to one another that the women will be able to move forward in an amicable way in the future.
2. Re: white Americans speak out in support of black Americans
Are you kidding me? Tell me people don’t have any doubt as to what to do in this instance. (feigned indignation) Of course, white Americans should speak out in support of black Americans. EVERY-FREAKING-ONE should be speaking out in support leveling the playing field for black Americans and all people of color.
But seriously, if all it took to end racism was for black Americans to speak out about it, I think that would’ve happened already. We all have a unique voice to lend to the chorus that speaks out against racism. Some are singing the melody, some bass notes, and others harmonies. Only you can deliver the message that is uniquely yours. There’s things that you can say as a white person to another white person that will … have a different affect on a white listener.
There are people on Medium who are learned about social justice in a academic or even a social work context, and the way they write about race relations blows me away. And that’s okay, because a learned or hands-on approach brings a new depth to the conversation that might otherwise be missed. This in no way takes anything from people with a more visceral approach to their writing, but we all need as many people attacking the problem (not each other) to make some serious headway. There’s more than enough racism for everyone to tackle in their own circle of influence.
In matters of race relations, your role as a white man is to do as much as you feel compelled to do. If you want to be an ally, be an ally. If you want to be an activist be an activist; but whatever you do do it wholeheartedly.
I struggle with feeling like I should be silent on all things BLM. I think a lot of non-black people feel this way.
Why do you feel that you “should” be silent on all things BlackLivesMatter? People are dying in the streets. Literally. I’m not suggesting that you take a bullet for anyone, but if you’re willing to speak out against social injustice, no one has the right to say, “Be quiet, I/we got this.” The best time to speak is when you feel you must.
It took me years to get to the point where I would willing address racism in my writing and public speaking. Apparently, people are interested in what I have to write/say. Who knew?! And I’m sure there’s plenty of people who are interested in what you have to say, as well.
I realize I need to educate myself. I am working hard at this.
Welcome to the club, my friend. Your membership card is in the mail. We all need to educate ourselves on this. No one knows it all. And I think the more we all try to broaden our point of view, the better off we’ll all be.
I also understand that my silence is taken as support of subjugation of my fellow humans who happen to have a certain skin colour.
If you’re fine with that, own it. (I know you’re not, I’m making a point.) I have to say though, unless people tell you that they take your silence as tacit complicity, you don’t know. What matters most is what you think of your silence. To remain silent out of fear or because you don’t have the right words or you simply don’t know how to voice your opinion in an appropriate manner, is not a bad thing. But to remain silent at a time when you know the right thing for you to say or do and choose not to, that’s supporting subjugation.
Is my role as a white man only to retweet and share the authentic voiced concerns of black people?
Everyone has to answer that question for themselves. If tweeting and sharing is the extent of your activism, tweet and share with every fiber of your being. That’s more activism than was out there before. Should I as a black man participate in demonstrations? Probably. But that’s way outside my comfort zone, but I’ll write an article or respond to an email in a nanosecond.
… what are the safe spaces short of cultural appropriation?
Honestly, I don’t know. My guess is that it comes down to intent. How do you plan to use those cultural elements? If it’s not forthright and honest, avoid doing it. Here’s a few litmus tests—
Exploitative purposes primarily for monetary gain? [buzzer] Wrong answer!
As a means to enlighten/educate/bring awareness? [ding-ding] Always a good answer!
Denigration/mockery? [buzzer] Nope.
Personal enrichment? [ding-ding] Can’t go wrong!
Personal Dolezal-ization? [buzzer] Only if you’re looking to be nationally vilified.
To act as an agent of positive change? [ding-ding-ding] You betcha!
And how does one do this? It’s simple, but not always easy —
1. Speak to people with respect and care
2. And practice active listening
Thanks for the question. That’s all I got. I hope that helps.