I’m a “magical negro” and this is my moment to tell you the truth. First, allow me to explain to you what a “Magical Negro” is. I didn’t make it up. In TV and film the Magical Negro is the Black character who helps the White protagonist overcome their challenges. It’s Uncle Remus, Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, Bagger Vance, John Coffey in the Green Mile and a bunch of characters you’ve seen Morgan Freeman play. In your life, the Magical Negro is your one Black friend— the one you feel comfortable enough to ask questions and express your confusion over everything that’s happening. Your Magical Negro friend is the one that you believe would never be George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. You don’t understand why they keep saying they could. That’s your Magical Negro.
Are you uncomfortable? Great! We’re making progress.
This week Thrive Global asked contributors to write about “a personal experience you’ve had with racism or social injustice” A…singular…as in one?
“Did you experience racism at a young age or in your life and career?” Yes! “How did that experience shape how you grew up, and the decisions you made later on?” Huh?! “Have you ever witnessed racial bias or injustice?” You’re losing me. “Did an incident involving social injustice lead you to forge an unexpected connection with someone that changed your life?” OHHHHHHH, You’re talking to white people.
Listen, we’re glad you’re asking questions and trying to understand. We’re trying to process our emotions and collect our thoughts about how to end police brutality and change civilian laws that allow the murder of Ahmaud Arbery to be questionable. We’re glad you are in the fight with us and here are a few things you need you to know that might not be so obvious to you.
We Matter, Not Just Because You Can Relate To Us.
Posting about your Black friend, nephew or your sister’s husband and telling us that he likes Nascar and monster trucks is not exactly what we’re going for. This is what we Magical Negros have been trying to tell you since we were kids. Yes, we have some things in common with you. I love Billy Joel. But even if I didn’t like Billy or go kayaking I still matter. It’s not my academic degrees or professional credentials that make me worth saving. I’m human, created in the image of God so whether I know all the words to “Slip of the Lip” by Ratt — which I do— shouldn’t make me more valuable. I feel like, to you, it does.
We Understand Why You’ve Been So Quiet
We all saw the college admissions scandal play out and let me tell you something…Black people were not surprised. Dismantling systemic racism means dealing with white mediocrity that has been rewarded for centuries. Black progress comes at the expense of exposing White mediocrity. We get it. It’s easy to understand why you stayed quiet for so long. I mean…I wouldn’t be so quick to dismantle a system that gives me a headstart for just being born. Giving up that right is not easy and we applaud you for considering it in this moment.
We Know Your Friends and Family are Racist And We Appreciate You Trying
Several of my friends have been outraged by the things they’ve seen posted from family and friends. Surprise! My girlfriend cried because one of her closest friends is a racist. She just figured it out this week. I, however, have known for years because her friend looks right passed me or peppers me with micro-aggressions. I know it’s a painful shock, but please continue to challenge your people, continue to shame them for their hateful ignorance. This is helpful and necessary.
You Can’t Just “White Out” America’s Race Problem
Listen, I know you’re used to your problems eventually going away. I hate to tell you this but racism is not going anywhere anytime soon. This is a systemic problem. The weekly prompt from Thrive is just a tiny example of how deeply infected we are with systemic bias. It is not a complicated problem but it is extremely complex. We need to fix racial bias in education, lending, politics, food sufficiency, healthcare, and entertainment to name just a few. We have a long way to go to rid American of racism, but for right now we’re focused on one thing…
Stop Killing Us
Some of my white friends are asking really good questions about what to do to fix this. That’s going to be a big answer for a big problem. However, in the immediate moment, we need the police and white people to stop killing us under the law. We need an overhaul of law enforcement and the judicial process. Oh, and those of you making the argument that Black people kill each other at an alarming rate. You’re right. We hate that. We’d really like to spend some time and energy on fixing it. I can promise you that if we fix racial inequality in housing, education, healthcare, and economic access….there will be a lot less violence everywhere by everyone.
Make This YOUR Problem
This piece is not comfortable for me to write. It is insufficient for the topic and insufficient for the times. The important thing for you to know is that this is our moment, America. Black America…particularly you, magical Negro, this is our moment to tell the truth to our white friends and coworkers, to let them know how deeply this problem is infested in their hearts and minds…even the “good” ones. Tell them their silence hurts. Tell them, with empathy, when they are speaking from white privilege, albeit unintentional and unknowingly.
White America…we need you. We need your voices. We need your power. We need you to do to police brutality what you did to drug addiction. Institute programs and policies that change the way we think about and respond to police brutality. Work your magic. The way you turned criminal crackheads into misguided meth addicts who need our help. Make it YOUR problem now. Because when its YOUR problem, change happens.