To My Fellow White People: I'd Like to Clarify A Few Things

white privilege white fragility

In the last few weeks, Femestella has been writing about the ongoing protests, the reckonings for racist celebrities, and more as we as a country continue to confront our systematic racism.

Although the majority of responses have been positive, we’ve definitely received our fair share of pushback, particularly from white people who have gone on the defense.

And while I’ve tried to respond to comments as they come in, I’ve noticed a few patterns and reoccurring themes that I feel I need to address.

Below, I tackle some of the most common comments. Hopefully, you’ll find this useful as you continue to navigate this “Great Awokening.”

1. “I refuse to apologize for being white!”

white fragility

First of all, nobody is asking you to apologize for your whiteness. You were born white. You obviously have no control over that. We are asking, however, that you recognize how you, as a white person, play a part in perpetuating the systematic racism this country was built on.

Nobody is asking you to take responsibility for what your ancestors did. We get it, you weren’t alive then. However, because of the history of this country, you are now benefitting from what they did 400 years ago. And as you go about your day, we’d like you to see how you, by not speaking up, by allowing things like police brutality to continue unchecked, are, in fact, part of the problem. We need you to recognize that.

I realize that this can be a big undertaking — many white people grew up in a bubble where we never noticed the oppression of black people on a daily basis because we never had to notice. We could go about our day unaffected. But now is the time to open your eyes. It’s time to put down your defenses and listen. That’s the best place to start.

2. “I refuse to apologize for my white privilege!”

white privilege explained

Again, nobody is asking you to apologize for this. You were born into white privilege, nobody blames you for that. And we recognize that, although you have white privilege, it doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard. But white privilege means your life hasn’t been made harder by your whiteness.

So what do we want then? We’d like you to start to understand your white privilege and, more importantly, we’d like you to use your white privilege for good. There are a ton of resources out there for you to learn about your privilege as well as many ways you can start using your privilege to dismantle systematic racism. And while I realize that this can be a daunting task, it’s never too late to start.

3. “It’s not the whole police, it’s just a few bad apples!”

police brutality

Yes, technically not every single cop has murdered a black person.

However — and this is a big “however” — you have to understand the culture of the police force. The police have a well-documented culture of covering up for each other. On top of that, it’s well-known that cops who do speak out and report their colleagues to internal affairs are often reprimanded and have their careers derailed. So, police forces have more than discouraged the “good cops” from speaking out when they see something racist and immoral.

So, even though many cops have not personally murdered a black person, they have been complicit. They have seen the problems and they have allowed them to continue. And that is equally as problematic.

4. “Saying the n-word isn’t that big of a deal. Get over it.”


Actually, saying the n-word is a big deal. I realize that for many millennials and gen-z, the n-word has almost been normalized as more and more rappers who use the word in their music have gone mainstream.

On top of that, most of us were not adequately taught the history of the n-word growing up. Between those two factors, it’s easy to feel like the n-word no longer holds the power it once did.

But that is simply not the case. The n-word has deep roots in American history and is still used today to degrade black people. So while some black people, including many rappers, have decided to reclaim the word, that doesn’t mean the word has lost all meaning.

And, perhaps most importantly, if you are white, it is not your job to determine if and/or when the n-word has lost its meaning. You do not have that right. Period.

5. “They’ve been fired, what more do you want?”

vanderpump rules firings

We’ve written a few articles over the last two weeks about celebrities who have been fired for their racist rhetoric, particularly the Vanderpump Rules firings and MTV’s The Challenge firing Dee Nguyen.

In response to our pieces, there have been numerous responses from people who think that we are being oversensitive and don’t understand why we continue to condemn them even though they’ve already been fired.

So let me explain it to you: Firing a person here and a person there is not going to change anything. In fact, it’s merely the beginning of a much bigger reckoning our media has to deal with when it comes to allowing racist rhetoric from their stars to continue to go unchecked. This is going to be an ongoing conversation about how we can make changes in the media, make changes to how we represent people of color, and what type of behavior we allow from those we give a platform.

And yes, everyone who has a pattern of racist behavior deserves to be fired. This isn’t about “cancel culture,” it’s about holding people accountable for their actions.

6. “Why are they only speaking up now? They’re being opportunistic.”

faithe stowers vanderpump rules cast firing

As people like Vanderpump Rules’ Faith Stowers, Riverdale’s Vanessa Morgan, Glee’s Samantha Ware, and more continue to call out racism within their industry, many white people are wondering, why now? In fact, some have even accused these celebrities of being “opportunistic.”

This is absolutely not the case. Many black celebrities have been speaking out about issues of racism and representation within Hollywood for years and their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Even worse, some people, like Mo’Nique, have been blackballed from Hollywood for speaking out.

This sends the message to other black celebrities, particularly black female celebrities, that they need to stay quiet to survive, that their voices won’t be heard. But we are finally seeing people listening to what black celebrities are saying. We are finally seeing consequences for racist behavior. So yes, black celebrities are using this time to speak out on the problems that have run rampant for decades. And rightly so!


We All Have Unconscious Bias — Even You

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.