I’ve been living my privileged life thinking I’m not a racist because “I have a ton of black friends”, without realizing I’m inadvertently and unknowingly part of the racism problem. I’ve been confronted with an uncomfortable reality: my silence is part of the problem. My personal feelings are irrelevant. Minorities have been telling us they experience racial injustice every day, and these past few months have exposed that. And personally, I cannot unsee that.
The recent death of George Floyd, caught on video has gone viral. But this wasn’t an isolated incident. We’ve seen with our own eyes Ahmaud Arbery, shot dead by a civilian in Georgia. And Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who died after police entered her Kentucky home. And there are countless more. I’ve had enough.
I’m committed to educating myself about this subject and making a difference in my circle of influence. I’m doing the work to unite and be part of the solution to bring about real change. I admit, this conversation is extremely uncomfortable for me. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing. I’m uncomfortable with the details and terminology; Blacks? People of color? African American? And then if they’re not American then what? I’ve become paralyzed in my own head and I’m afraid of saying something clumsy and awkward. I’ve stuck my head in the sand because it’s uncomfortable for me.
I plan to change this. Apologies in advance if I use incorrect terminology. I’m not trying to offend, I’m trying my hardest to educate myself. My words come from my heart. It may be a little wobbly at first, but please be patient with me as I try to learn. I fully realize it isn’t a Black person’s job to educate me on the injustices they have suffered over the years… it’s time for me to dig in, and learn for myself.
Here are five ways I plan to stand up to racism
1. Educate myself on Racism
I’m committed to educating myself. There’s so much information out there and I’m grateful for all of the book recommendations, articles people have shared with me, and suggestions on powerful Instagram accounts to follow. This is a start. I’m thrilled to dive into White Women, Race Matters by Ruth Frankenberg and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I plan to share with my white friends and discuss in groups with whomever feels comfortable having these conversations.
2. Speak up – even if it’s uncomfortable.
Passive racism is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious racism. We’ve all been exposed to those ‘jokes’ with racist undertones. I plan to be more aware, listen for it, and speak up even if it’s uncomfortable.
3. Ask plenty of questions
This is clearly not my area of expertise, and I know my friends of color are tired and disheartened. They shouldn’t have to carry the burden of racial oppression, AND be teachers to those who benefit from that same oppression. Black people do not have the energy to educate white people about racism. I plan to educate myself and ask plenty of questions IF and WHEN the time is appropriate. I’m hoping once my Black friends see my work and commitment, they’ll be more willing to take me seriously and maybe, just maybe, answer some of my questions.
4. Continue to discuss racism with children.
Children are not born racist. I’ll never forget reading a Martin Luther King book to my 6 year old, and he looked at me with wide eyes saying, “But I don’t get it momma, why was he killed because he was black?” If only I could bottle up that delicious innocence. It was unfathomable to him. Now they are older, it’s time for them to step up to be part of the solution. I don’t know about you, but I’m counting on this younger generation to lead the way. They can’t ignore discussions of racism when they emerge in the news cycle, or sit by idly while someone perpetuates racial stereotypes or blatant disrespect. I’ve discussed and will continue to discuss how standing up to racism is an expectation in our family.
5. Reach out to members of the Black and Brown communities to share their stories.
I plan to use my platform to share personal stories from people of all races. I understand that I will never be able to completely understand, but I do not want the black and brown community to walk alone. I want to try to understand. I plan to share firsthand experiences from those comfortable sharing with me, so we can be the kind of people we want to be, and be proud of the country our kids are growing up in.
I’m ready for something good to come from this pandemic. Being a white anti-racist ally is not going to be easy, but it’s important.