How does a white man know what it is to be Black?

Published by Michael Cannistraci, Date: February 21, 2024

What does a white man know of the struggles of his Black siblings? How can a white man, who has never had a run in with law enforcement, know what it’s like to pulled over by the police and know there is the potential for intimidation and racial bias against them?

I am a white man. I have benefitted from the unspoken rules and laws that prop the white man up in society. I can only imagine what my Black brothers and sisters go through on a daily basis, and I don’t necessarily mean discrimination.

I just do not know what it means to be Black in the United States, which is why this article is a call from one white person to the rest of white people to start waking up to the realities of what it means to be Black in America.

How can white folks do this? Easy, they can educate themselves on these issues and topics as often as possible throughout the year, not just during Black History Month. We can do so by reading books and articles, poems and complaints written by Black authors. We can listen to music written, sung and played by Black musicians.

We can view and appreciate art, television and any other form of entertainment or media. We can do all of these things and learn them at our own speed. Taking initiative and educating ourselves is what will create a clearer understanding of each other within our communities.

The most important thing is that we must not see ourselves as saviors. We must not fall into the trap of being the white heroes that we may think the Black community needs, for no one is saved or helped.

No, that does not mean do not help your Black neighbors; it should be the moral responsibility of all peoples to help their neighbors as best they can. But to say I must help my Black neighbors because I am white and I alone can fix it is not good for race relations in this country, or anywhere else in this world. You must educate yourself and help your Black brothers and sisters because you want to, not because you have to. We must be allies.

 I’ll close with an excerpt from a poem by one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes:

“A world I dream where black and white,

Whatever race you be,

Will share the bounties of the earth

And every man is free,

Where wretchedness will hang its head

And joy, a pearl,

Attends the needs of all mankind—

Of such I dream, my world!”

-from “I Dream a World” by Langston Hughes

May the words of the poet guide us in our efforts for a better tomorrow! I would like to give a very special thank you to my friend and colleague Mikayla Keyes for proof reading this article, and providing additional thoughts and insights.


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