Caroline Crockett Brock's Facebook post about a conversation she had with her appliance repairman Ernest Skelton is an example of what white people should not do if they want to be allies.
Caroline Crockett Brock, aged 45, is a white woman living in the southern United States. Last year was the first time she engaged "frankly" about racism with a Black man, Ernest Skelton. In a Facebook post, she shared what their interaction was like. Skelton had come to her home to repair her washing machine, which is when their conversation began. Since it was first uploaded, Brock's post has gone viral. The pair was even interviewed by the local news. To many, the interaction and the incidents that followed were a sign of shared humanity. However, the post appeared as nothing but posturing and virtue signaling.
"When Ernest Skelton, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in," Brock begins in her post. "As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate. Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what White person actually addresses racism head-on, in person, in their own home?" This is where her posturing began; of course, she is an exemplary snowflake of a white woman for addressing racism "head-on," by making a Black man talk about his trauma.
She continues, "When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions." Her first question was about what life was like for him on a day-to-day basis (as if there does not exist lots of material--documentaries, books, news interviews, social media posts, and more--about Black people's lives). "Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year," she explains (shocker!). "He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another. Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side."
Brock then shares that Skelton, who formerly used to help folks out after dark with emergencies, no longer does "because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark." She writes, "Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle-aged Black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter-of-fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard." And if Brock did not come to save Skelton from the affliction of silence, surely he would not have a voice to express these sentiments.
Moving on, she deeply appreciates his charity of helping [her] with another washer dryer set and a dishwasher all without charging her. She concludes with Skelton's thoughts on the status quo of racism in the United States. "Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is. His dad taught him, 'It’s a White man’s world,' and he’s done his best to live within it. When I asked him what I could do, he said, 'Everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people.'" However, Brock had to have the last word and thus ended with this totally unique, never-before-seen affirmation: "I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world--by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up. I can help by actively promoting Black-owned businesses. That’s what I can do today. Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple."
There are three major problems I have with this post. First, why after four-and-a-half decades of life, is Skelton the first Black man she has interacted with "frankly" about racism? What does this say about Brock's social circle? I have no reservations assuming that her network is majority-white. Second, these "earth-shattering" points that she makes in her post are things Black folks have been telling us for a long time. Why does a white woman's recognition and rehashing of those words somehow make them more valid? These are basic arguments, and Brock does not deserve special treatment, let alone a feature on the local news, for making these points. Third, despite recognizing the uneven playing field between white and Black Americans, Brock still expected Skelton to perform free labor for her. White Americans have been benefitting from Black Americans' free labor ever since Europeans colonized the continent. There is no need to perpetuate that cycle. In fact, she should have paid him more for the emotional labor he performed for her, patiently explaining his story and trauma to her for no reason but so she could earn clout on Facebook. White people need to do better than just uploading a Facebook post. They must learn how to be silent, instead of virtue signaling in order to win "woke points."