A conversation about race with Jon’ette Jordan.
by Raelinn Doty 16 June 2020
I was reading the news online and saw that another black man had died. “Suicide” by hanging from a tree. Yeah, right… I think not. I read further that there had not been one, but two, lynchings recently in CA. The families are demanding that the circumstances be looked into further by the authorities. And thankfully they are doing it.
But… LYNCHINGS!? I think that at the time of writing this, it’s up to 4 people now! So I, like many others, took to Facebook with my outrage and said the following:
And now with everything else, ACTUAL LYNCHINGS!!
I CANNOT EVEN DEAL WITH THIS!
Several people chimed in at their horror that this could be happening. But a few people said they had to quit watching the news. This deeply affected my friend Jon’ette Jordan from Los Angeles whom I’ve known since 2012. And with her permission, I’m sharing the conversation that came out of that, because it’s important to share her story.
(I’ve edited out some of my own commentary as this is about Jon’ette, not me.)
J – Those of you saying you block out the news because it’s too much are the exact ones who need to take in ALL OF THIS! We (Black people) cannot turn off the “news” or our reality! Y’all want to be allies? Watch all this shit! Get outraged! Start electing officials who will TRULY help change things at the foundation of our racist ass country, NOT electing more racists into office! Don’t get on social media posting about BLM and all that stuff that looks good for show, but turn off the reality when it happens! Nope, take it all in! Every single day. Just as we do!
Then in private messages with each other, we shared this exchange:
R – I remain really troubled by your comment on my feed about not watching the news. I literally haven’t watched traditional televised news since 1996. And I don’t intend to start now. I read from many sources and look at still images because I do not wish to be incapacitated for days, curled up in a ball on my sofa, incapable of anything whosoever. That being said, I know that I still have much work to do even with myself. Please always tell me how I can do better. I cannot imagine what you have had to experience. Not at all.
J – Hey there! I wasn’t talking to you at all. I’m aware that you stay in touch with news and happenings of the world. I was talking to every commenter who said they were turning off the news because it was too much to handle.
R – I seriously cannot imagine. If I can’t handle it, I have no idea how you are even possibly. And then I see my precious privilege that I only have to think about it when something awful hits the news. Jesus! The closest thing I have is being a woman who can’t go here or there or wear this or that in fear of rape or worse. But I’m a relatively attractive white lady who can do whatever and go wherever I want without even thinking about it.
And it’s not as if I haven’t given this serious thought before. But these current crises have brought everything into new and brighter light. THANK GOODNESS! And I’m finally REALIZING the day to day terror that Black Americans have to face simply for even EXISTING! I’m horrified
J – I needed to wash away this day before I could reply further. You know me – I say everything with love, so please forgive my delivery if it isn’t sugary.
I’m not asking anyone to purposely depress themselves to the point of curling up in a ball on the sofa and being incapable of functioning. My point was that you all, as white people, have the ability to turn things on and off as it relates to racial injustice and alllll that entails. That is part of your privilege. We, Black people, do not have the pleasure of doing so. When someone such as myself shares thoughts to help, it’s important to not become defensive. I know you keep up with the news. I know that you are informed. I do not desire that you become incapacitated in order to show allyship. What I am saying is that white people need to recognize y’all’s privilege even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when it makes you feel rotten for having it although you never asked for it. I’m not condemning, nor was my comment meant to do so. It was evident by the number of people who had no clue what happened that y’all are able to shield yourselves from our reality because it does not directly impact you. Black folk have been discussing the lynchings since the day/day after they happened. Days later, white people are just starting to learn of it. Anyway, let me not ramble. I’m just saying, when someone Black tries to help you (meaning people in general) to understand, allow them to do so without centering yourself and furthering their point.
R – There are tears in my eyes as I write this…I’m on a huge, privileged learning curve. I want to help change things. We are so fucking ignorant. And it sounds unbelievably trite, but I’m so very sorry. Please always tell me how I can be better and how I can help change things. Because clearly white people, even those with the very best of intentions, do not know how. Also massive hugs to you. Big, long, human hugs. I just cannot even imagine.
J – I 100% believe you have the absolute best of intentions! I just think that privilege is as much a part of who you are as a white American as being on guard and never completely letting down one’s guard for Black/African Americans. I was telling a friend the other day that when I get massages, I have to schedule at least 90-120 minutes because I spend the first 30 minutes trying to relax. I don’t have the privilege of being able to relax. I have to worry that my hairstyle is too black. That my laughter is too loud. That my way of being will be deemed ghetto. That if I don’t leave a good tip, I’ll make an ENTIRE race of my people look cheap and bad. That I can’t so much as break the tiniest of traffic laws for fear of what will happen if I get stopped by the police. That I told a joke that made white people uncomfortable. That I’m going to a meeting in an all white neighborhood and hope that someone doesn’t call the police on me because I look “suspicious.” That I don’t stand in an elevator with a white person and they hold their purse for fear that I’ll steal it…even when mine costs 10 times as much. That I don’t share an opinion on social media that offends white people to the point of them actively working to destroy by company that I’ve built over the past 19 years.
When my white friends get massages, they rave about how they just get on the table and are so relaxed that they practically sleep through the whole service. I wish I knew how that felt. I wish I knew that type of comfort in this country, but I don’t. I am sure I won’t during the rest of my days on this earth. However, I’m hopeful that Black toddlers and unborn Black children will be able to hop onto a massage therapists table and fall asleep within minutes because they don’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders like every Black person I know and I do.
This is the first time I allowed myself to cry. I don’t have the luxury of breaking down. I just have to go on. Releasing all this is is so… It’s so painful. It’s such a heavy armor to carry every day for 44 years.
R – And I’m again in tears. Jonette, we really as white Americans, even with the very best of intentions, have LITERALLY ZERO IDEA of what you have to suffer on a moment by moment basis.
J – I’m sorry for coming unglued. I’m not allowed to do that. Yes, you may share, but with my name. People need to know there’s a real person behind this pain.
R – My dear, dear dear woman. I wish I could hug you. I wish we could sit together and just… be. I’m sending you mountains of love. You have to know that we stupid, ignorant white people who have no idea what to do We (many of us) want to help. We (many of us) need to know how but we don’t. I’m sending you love, love, love. I’m going to shout your message to the mountains! This is my work tomorrow.
That’s the end of the conversation. But it can never truly be the end of the conversation until Black Americans feel genuinely SAFE and protected and not as if they will be murdered, and even worse, murdered by the police, for driving/sleeping/jogging/sitting in their back yard whilst black. Nobody should ever feel like this.
Want to help? Amplify Black voices. Root out systemic racism everywhere you see it. Donate your voice, time and money to causes doing the work. And for the love of all things good and decent, vote people of good conscience, and importantly, BLACK PEOPLE into office so we can make lasting changes that count.
Do you have resources to share? Organizations working to end hate? Teachings that can help people remove systemic racism from their workplaces? Remove racism from our hearts and minds? Do you know of elections that are crucial to replace people who are promoting hate? Please share in the comments.
And please share Jon’ette’s message.
Jon’ette Jordan is the founder of J Squared Events: Planning and Design