That time Alex stopped by ESSENCE for a discussion on talking to white people about race

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The fine folks at Essence invited on to discuss the inherent challenges in engaging in conversations about race with White people alongside ESSENCE's Christina Coleman, Jezebel's Rich Juzwiak, and Daveen Trentman co-founder and Production Director of the Soze Agency. Shoutout to host Makho Ndlovu and the ESSENCE team.

On educating white folks: That will be...$90. We accept Paypal.

If I’m honest, much of my activism is white-centered.

I extend my heart and my words in spaces that center white people, even when they say they don’t, in order to convince them of the violence of racism, to tap into their humanity, to empower them to do good with their privilege. Until recently, most of my work has been to lead white horses to water, rather than comforting black ones who have been sick from drowning in it.

I’ve done this in creating and administrating Facebook groups. There was a group for gentle parents, a group for activist self-care, a group about all sorts of inequities (racism, sexism, ableism, etc.), and most recently, a 101 group that works with ready and willing white people who want to learn the impact of their racism and how to be kinder, better people.

Earlier this year, I noticed my friend Adele adding a PayPal.me link to her Facebook posts.

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So I started doing it.

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And I didn’t disappoint. I gave honest and thorough thoughts and dropped my Paypal.me link, allowing people to send whatever they thought my posts were worth. Maybe that was the problem. Because the posts didn’t generate much money.

And I felt embarrassed using it.

I felt embarrassed asking people to pay for my intellectual labor. I felt like this service might be something I should be doing for free. Or at least, not asking for payment? It's obvious that I’ve internalized a few fallacies…

1. Intellectual and emotional labor are not “real” labor.

2. My intellectual and emotional labor should be given away for free.

3. I shouldn’t ask white people, the beneficiaries of my labor, to pay for it.

Bull. Shit.

When I’ve tried to sell things on Facebook yard sale groups, I’ve been asked to lower prices for things I’ve wanted to sell. My “everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt” self has just assumed, “Oh, people haggle prices all the time!” Until I started seeing people selling used, easily accessible baby carriers, like the Infantino Sash for $30 when you can purchase them new at Walmart or Target online for $25. And people buy them used for $30!

When my family was moving earlier this summer, we listed our 2 year old washer and dryer pair for $300 each. Great condition and lightly used. No takers. People who showed interest wanted me to lower the price. Later, after we dropped the price to $200 each, I came across a post from just a few weeks earlier, with 8 people inquiring about a washer that was over a decade old and dirty for $175. “Maybe its me," I thought. “Maybe I’m the only one who thinks a new-ish appliance is worth a little more than something that is 10 years old." But no. The differences are glaring.

It has been apparent that all people want a good deal. But in America, white people expect a discount when PoC are dispensing goods; I’m just not sure if its because they think we don’t deserve what our products or services are worth, or if they think they should get a discount because they have PoC germs on them.

This brings me to my next point.

This November, immediately following the historic upset (to some, it's a historic win for too many), a host of people took to wearing safety pins in solidarity with marginalized people who would fall victim to the Trump hammer. Safety Pin Nation, a Facebook group, and I assume the center of the safety pin hub, describes itself as “Stories & resources about being an ally to POC, people of different faiths, women, PWD, & LGBTQ folk. Wearing a safety pin is a promise & a responsibility.” Along with Pantsuit Nation, Safety Pin Nation sets itself up as a place to make white people feel better by doing very little. People of Color have been speaking out for so very long about how the world really works outside of the white privilege bubble, and how white supremacy hurts us. But suddenly, after an upset in the presidential election, white people are now able to understand and identify microaggressions and defend us against bigotry? No.

They don’t. And the implication is insulting.

Enter Leslie Mac and Marissa Jenae’s Safety Pin Box. From their website:

This subscription box is intended for white people who want to consistently contribute to Black liberation financially while doing measurable support work for the movement and learning what it takes to dismantle white supremacy. Safety Pin Box encourages white people to take initiative in contributing to the movement for Black lives, while getting guidance and educational resources from Black women.

And that there is the problem for so many people.

One of the best things about Safety Pin Box is that it is a business that gives proceeds to Black women. Black women are running a business that provides a service to white people, with proceeds going to Black women. And this fact makes people incredibly uncomfortable. How dare these, these BLACK women ask for money? For payment for a service/product they offer?

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In groups, I’ve been kind. I’ve been patient. I’ve laid my spirit out and repeated myself 50-11 times to answer the same questions over and over again, begging people to see my humanity. And still, people center themselves, pour white tears all over their posts and flouncing/rage quitting groups after PoC have lost their patience with them. They feel entitled to MY energy, MY kindness, MY brainpower and then discard it all by deleting comments, blocking me, or leaving groups. They think MY intellectual labor is not worth THEIR money.

Activism does not come with a check for most people. And when it does, the people cashing those checks are most often white and/or male (see Tim Wise, Shaun King, DeRay McKesson). We give so much to advocate for truth, love and equity. We give because we are lovers and fighters and sacrifice our own backs and our fronts and mental health for the hope that one day, our children won’t have to. We do all of this while we are dealing with the same shit white people are dealing with like trying to make ends meet, sick parents, sick kids, etc. while also dealing with the violence of whiteness.

I was in a very strange place post-Election Day. With so much of my activism focused on  rehabilitating white people to reduce the impact of their racial violence, I’ve been unable to gain my footing after 58% of white people voted for Donald Trump. I’ve felt like I have to adjust my approach but really? I need to rededicate myself to people who believe in my work so much that they will pay for it. Because we know that people value things they pay for more than things they get for free.

In 2017, #BBHMM. My hourly rate is currently $45. (And parenting while writing this took me two hours.)


 Black women teach the world and we deserve fair compensation for our goods and services.

 Pay Adele

 Pay me

 Pay Kirsten

 Subscribe and/or make a donation at safetypinbox.com

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Asia Renée is an activist, mom of two and lactation counselor. Her passions include reproductive justice, dismantling white supremacy and patriarchy while reveling in the sisterhood that is #blackgirlmagic. She writes poetry at blackwomangaze.wordpress.com and is chief editor of The Conscious Parent Collective, a place for all to find resources and advice for raising socially conscious children. 

Listen to our latest episode, "New Year, New Me" (feat. Ilen and Lauren Bell of Black Fitness Today) here.