Do you know what´s made my heart hurt the most in the last 10 days?
Amidst all the negative news coming out of the United States, it´s been the outcry and demonstrations spreading through the country.
While there seems to be more news than any of us can realistically process, it´s the pictures, videos and words of both gut-wrenching and heartfelt expression flooding my social media timelines that I simply cannot turn away from.
Protesters in Portland lying on a bridge; thousands in all, on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs. Videos of journalists being arrested by the police while reporting. Peaceful protesters being forcefully cleared from a public square. Masses of people demanding to be heard while others mar the message by inciting confusion and violence.
The despair and the anger resulting from so many decades of unsuccessful struggle brings tears to my eyes, and I find it hard to pull my thoughts together.
Silent No More
As a white American citizen, I feel shame at what´s happening in the US right now…what´s been happening for a very long time. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live your life not knowing whether your husband, your son or your brother will come home at the end of each day. Simply because of the color of their skin. So much hate; so much racism. Too much silence.
My heart goes out to George Floyd´s family and all the others who have been so terribly wronged.
It´s time for the silence to stop because change is long overdue.
It´s right that people are marching, speaking out and pulling together in solidarity. And it´s good to see police offers kneeling with the demonstrators.
You Can Only Change What You´re Willing To See
If you are not affected personally, racism can be a lot like smoke and mirrors…you catch glimpses of it from different angles but something else happens and you get distracted. It´s easy not to see what you aren´t looking for.
Not too long ago, I saw a video that made me think…
There were a few dozen young adults getting ready to take part in a race. The fastest runner would get a hundred dollars. But before they could start, one of the organizers had them stand in front of him in a straight line, left to right. And, this is what he said:
Take two steps forward, if your parents are still married.
Now, take two steps forward if you never had to help your parents pay the bills.
If you grew up with a father, take two steps.
And, take two steps, if you never had to wonder where your next meal is coming from.
It went on a bit longer, but the crux of the exercise was that, in the end, those people who moved forward the furthest had white skin.
People like me; people of privilege.
And it reminded me of how good my chances in life have always been…and continue to be.
Awareness is the first step towards change. I still feel confused. I feel compassion and I feel shame. There´s this need deep inside to do something.
The time for change is now. So, what can I do?
The time for change is way overdue and it´s up to each one of us to do what we can.
Over the course of the past week, I´ve read articles, watched videos and did my best to hear what demonstrators were saying when asked what white people can do to help. Not just for right now, but from this day forward.
Change happens when we´re in it for the long haul.
Here´s what I´m hearing is needed and what I am committed to doing – I welcome your ideas and insights in the comments below:
- Speak out. Raise your voice against racism, wherever and whenever you see it.
- Get informed. Where does racism exist in your community? Do something about it.
- Be open. Get to know people who do not look or think like you.
- Listen up. Mix up your timeline by consciously following people outside of your bubble on social media.
- Be proactive. Volunteer and/or donate to foundations and projects that seek to end racism, inequality, and injustice.
- Practice acceptance. Teach children that skin color says nothing about a person. Everyone is `different´ in some way and that´s what makes each of us special.
- Be supportive. Give a voice to those who are less privileged than you. Take a stand against inequality in your profession and help others learn to recognize it, too.
More Important, Still
But there´s something we can do that I believe is even more important than all of these things together. It´s where real change starts…
And ask yourself some very hard questions about:
- Your beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, that make you racist.
- Who taught you those beliefs – your family, your friends, your church, your school?
- How you lean on your white privilege in everyday life
- How many times you´ve said or wanted to say that someone was playing the race card.
- The times you´ve locked your car door or crossed the street to avoid a Black man.
- How often you´ve avoided certain parts of town because of who lives there.
- How you say you don´t see color and de-legitimize the fate of Blacks everywhere by repeating the phrase “there´s only one race; the human race”.
- All the times you´ve ignored, laughed at or stayed silent when someone made a racist comment or joke.
Then be willing to sit with the hard, uncomfortable truths of your answers
…and feel the shame.
It´s not easy. So much of what we do, we do without thinking. And that´s not just the saddest thing, it´s also the most dangerous.
Taking a close look at myself in recent days has been more uncomfortable than anything I´ve done in a very long time.
Is it something you´re willing to do as well?
Real Change Comes From The Inside Out
Change starts with questioning our privilege, our assumptions, the things we were taught as kids and by society, at large.
Yes, it´s time for change.
People all around the world are gathering to make it happen. Momentum is building and so much about this movement looks and feels different. The anguish and pain are overlaid by a sense of hope and determination; a sense that this time IS different.
And what will make this time around truly transformational is a willingness to peel back the layers and confront the ugliness that is inside of us, our institutions, our system of governing and our communities.
But it has to start with us.
Change has taken a long time in coming, but, this time, we are all in it together.