These words have been smelling salts to the drowsy.
But when white activists take the same tone with other white people, does it have the same value? And increasingly, I see essays that are just that: white people angry, shocked, disappointed and impatient with other white people who are insufficiently down with the cause.
I ask: by what authority?
As a white activist struggling with white people against white racism, you are going to run into three types of white people.
You are going to run into people who implacably opposed to this movement. Unless you already love them because they are like family, let them go and move on. Why waste your time?
You are going to run into people who are ready to step up. What do they need? They may need a little information, or to be hooked up with some activists, or a little encouragement. Of course, they need some education. You do, too. So, organize them.
But mostly, you are going to run into people who have not yet seriously engaged with the issue of white racism. Their thinking is within the bounds of conventional thinking; they don't know the history; they accept without thinking the perspectives that their privilege affords them. They have not decided yet whether to support or oppose this movement. They are uncommitted. Hey, they look and sound like you six months ago, or a year ago. So, your role is to engage, organize and educate them. If not you, who else? After all, somebody organized you.
But, you have no authority to be angry with them. You're not Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting in the Birmingham jail.
After all, if the white people who are frustrating are so unchangeably committed to white racism that they make you angry, you should probably just move on.
If you are a gardener, you pull up the weeds, pick the crops that are ripe and cultivate and feed the fruits and vegetables not yet ready for harvest. No gardener yells at their unripe vegetables.