To my black friends and the black community as a whole: I’m sorry for the senseless losses you’ve suffered this past week. I’m sorry for the ignorant bullshit you have to put up with at the hands of white folks in the wake of tragedies like the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and on a daily basis. I’m sorry that these things keep happening. I’m not sure what it’s going to take for us to wake up and put an end to this horrible pattern. Lastly, I’m sorry for my silence so far. I’ve been thinking and reading a lot, but this is the first time I’ve actually sat down and written those thoughts down for people to read, namely my fellow white friends and family. I’m sorry I’ve waited this long to say something other than reposting articles and liking people’s statuses.
I decided to use this blog as a platform for this post because I figured it would reach a bunch of people for which this kind of post would be informative.
My experience in Zambia has given me a lot of thinking time, time I don’t think I would have if I were home. And being here in Lusaka is especially unique because I get to do this thinking in a place that won’t let me forget my whiteness.
This morning I read through this post (28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors) that I came across while scrolling through Facebook, which has become a place of immense learning and discomfort for me in the past few days. When I say discomfort, I mean the kind that reminds me of my complicity as a white person, but also leads to a lot of growth. After reading this post, I realized I may not hold as many racist ideas as I used to, but I’m definitely not anti-racist. I’m not sure how to be anti-racist yet, but I know now that I shouldn’t be expecting people of color to teach me how not to oppress them.
I’ve been saying for a while that I have a lot of learning to do, which is true, but I’ve been using that as an excuse for my lack of urgency and action in the face of injustice. It is a privilege I hold as a white person to be able to sit back and be silent. To say that I’ll say something tomorrow. That I’ll let that person know they said something racist the next time they say something racist. That I’ll read all those books about whiteness and racism once I finish this book I’m reading written by an old white guy. That I’ll figure out what I can do to end racism soon.
But why don’t I start now? What’s stopping me?
I know exactly what’s stopping me: my comfort. And the fact that doing all of that learning and speaking out against racism takes WORK. It means that I’ll have to stop watching my favorite Netflix show or scrolling through Instagram and face the reality that there is so much work that needs to be done inside myself and out in the world. It means that I need a lot of humility–to be able to listen to people of color, really hear them when they call me out or give me advice, and then DO something and make a change. It means that I need to take it upon myself to do all the learning I need to do. Change is hard and can be slow, but is so necessary right now. And it needs to happen faster than I’m currently doing it. Too many black lives are being stolen from this world, and us white people aren’t taking responsibility for our history of oppressive force and violence. Not enough of us are even SAYING anything in the wake of even more police brutality.
I’m not sure exactly how to move forward, but I’m not expecting people of color, and right now specifically black people, to give me all the answers. I know I need to have more conversations with other white people. I know I need to keep learning. Most importantly I know I need to show up and DO something. I’m thankful that I decided to drop my minors so this year I have plenty of space in my schedule to finally take classes about race and gender and inequality and everything else I haven’t gotten to learn about yet. I’m glad that I’m still going to be working at Washington Middle School through the Center for Community Engagement, an organization that just declared themselves an Anti-Racist organization, and I’m looking forward to learning alongside them to figure out what it means to be anti-racist every single day. I know I live in a city that thinks it has its progressive shit together, but it doesn’t, but at least I’ve begun to find people that I can work with to tear down white supremacy and institutionalized racism. And I don’t get a pat on the back or a gold star for realizing that these are things I can do to help stop racism, but I wanted to share what some actions are that I plan to do to maybe help ya’ll reading this get some ideas.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know I need to start having difficult conversations and I hope whoever reads this will talk to me about this stuff. We need to ask questions and learn together and we need to hold each other accountable. The black community doesn’t have time to wait. What is it going to take for us to wake up and finally say that enough is enough? Black and brown people are being shot and killed on an all too regular basis. This needs to end. Let’s start talking, let’s start tearing down oppressive systems, let’s start demanding justice. And let’s start right now.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’re at least a little uncomfortable–racial justice doesn’t happen when people are comfortable. Now it’s time to roll around in that discomfort and DO something.
If you’re looking for some additional reading, here are some articles that I’ve found that might be informative and put some things in perspective: