I have purposely avoided talking about the horrendous murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, about Black Lives Matter and about race in general, not because it is uncomfortable to talk about these things – it is – but because it has not been my voice that has needed to be heard, rather the voices of black leaders, of change makers, of those who have lived experience with racism and oppression needed to be amplified. I have not shared my thoughts with you because it is my own ears that need to hear and my heart that needs to understand, to break, to change, to grow.
And now, I want to stand up, to share what I have learned, to tell you that I am still learning and continuing to learn and to acknowledge that I will never understand fully but that while I learn I am committed to being an ally, to standing up and speaking out against systemic and personal oppression against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and to keep trying to make it right when I get it wrong.
I have been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts, reading blogs and articles and creating a reading list of books by Black writers to learn more from Black leaders, especially women, so I can be a better ally and a better human.
I have a lot to learn still, and I do not claim to be an expert in Anti-Black racism, nor do I claim to be a perfect ally or anti-racist. I just know that doing nothing is no longer an option for me. Here is a short list of things I am learning.
- Not being racist is not enough. We hear it all the time. Good people who would never say something blatantly racist, who do not tell or laugh at racist jokes, who teach their children that we are all equal. These are good things. But they are not enough. Anti-Racism is active. It requires feeling uncomfortable sometimes. Anti-Racism is actively pursuing the end to systemic and personal racism. It is speaking out. It is looking inward and acknowledging our own white privilege. It is working through our fragility when we are called out for saying or doing something racist or oppressive, even when we didn’t mean to. To just be “not racist” is to be a bystander – not participating actively in oppressing people, but not actively using our privilege to end it either. The result is that people continue to be oppressed because the people with the power to change the system are simply watching.
- We must acknowledge our Privilege and instead of feeling shame about it, use it to make a change. A lot of people get upset when we talk about white privilege. White privilege doesn’t mean you are racist. It means acknowledging we have have been born into a system that was designed to advantage white people and to disadvantage Black People, Indigenous People and People of Colour. Until we can see systems that advantage certain people over others as the problem, and until the people with privilege within those systems are willing to give up those systems (and thus, to share the power), people with privilege and platforms will never change them.
- We need to listen more to the lived experiences of people who are oppressed. We need to talk less. I do not have the solution. But I can listen to the experiences of others and learn from them.
- I am not always going to get it right. So when we get it wrong, that is okay. Let’s acknowledge our mistakes, apologize and learn how to make it right. The problem is that when we are called out for saying or doing something racist, offensive or oppressive, especially when we didn’t know better, we get defensive and become ashamed. Stop doing that. Learn. Apologize. Ask how to do better. And then do it.
- Most of the people I know would never purposely say something racist or hurtful. But we have been born into a society with a long history of racism and our society has, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, taught us how to keep “others” down so we could stay on top. That is what White Supremacy is and like it or not we are all a product of it – intentionally or unintentionally. And because we are all a part of this society, we have a role to play in dismantling it. The first step is acknowledging it.
I know some of you, my readers, will be offended at what I have written. And I do not apologize. I simply ask you to take some time to reflect on why you are offended. If I have said something you disagree with, please, let’s talk about it. I want to learn. If I have said something that has triggered emotions in you, let’s talk. I am here to try to get it right, not to be right and I am open to learn more.
To my Black readers, I see you. I see you doing the work to educate, to fight for justice, to challenge systems and to share with us your lived experience with racism. I see you teaching us what Black Lives Matter is about. I see you doing a lot of emotional labour. And I see you doing all of this while you are grieving, while you are concerned about the repercussions of speaking out, while you fear for your lives and the lives of your children. And that isn’t even taking into account all the things you are going through in this global pandemic. I wonder how you are able to hold space for all of us to learn to do and be better while also creating space for your own personal emotional processing. I see you.
And I commit to stand with you, to learn, to speak out and to educate. And if (not if…when) I get it wrong, call me out. Challenge me to do better. I will work through my shame and fragility and I will do better.
Because, readers, when we do, when we strive and work to be better humans to other humans, we become more human.
Be well, friends. Stay safe. Reach out. Stay connected.