These last few months have presented challenges for our country in a very raw way. First we were all faced with complete life changes because of COVID-19 and its control over our country’s health, taking over 110,000 lives. And then we were all confronted with the unfortunate truth of the state of our nation and its systemic racism that continues to ravage minds and hearts and is infused in the structure on which this country was built. Two viruses, one that came into this country and continues to spread since January, the other was born in this country over four centuries ago. There is no vaccine or medicine for the second. There is not one “cure”, only the fact that this country needs to work together to truly understand that we are all facing a dangerous issue; an issue that effects our neighbors, our families, our communities, an issue that we need to come together on in understanding its dangers, empathizing with its effects, and agreeing on its need to be eradicated.
When I first started to write this post a few weeks ago I had planned on writing about what I have learned during quarantine. And in that draft, one of the major points was that I truly felt that we, as humans, can show up for each other in times of hardship and that “we are in this together”. But unfortunately that sentiment in this country is conditional; we are in this together if we’re from the same neighborhood, we are in this together if we look the same, we are in this together if we have similar pasts and family history. Support and empathy for another human being should not be conditional! We cannot continue to push away or disadvantage those who are different from us who have suffered such for centuries already.
I am not one to accept excuses or justifications: “well I grew up in a small town”, “well I’m from another generation”. Congratulations, I couldn’t care less. As humans we are engrained with this need to evolve and progress. We are constantly learning and taking in new information and developing new ways to do just that! But if you have not learned the simple concept of human decency and equality towards another human no matter what race, then none of that other stuff matters. If you have not been able to piece together how the past four centuries have put our fellow humans in a place of hardship and disadvantage, then you have learned nothing.
This term of “anti-racism” has been heavily used these past two weeks, stating that simply not being a racist isn’t enough anymore, and let’s be honest, it hasn’t been enough for a very long time now. I am proud to be a part of one of several generations that are leading the charge on changing a system that we see is very clearly flawed. It wasn’t working for everyone before, and we should have noticed earlier that for many it isn’t working at all. As kids almost every single one of us said the words “with liberty and justice for all” in school. We would say it in unison, standing in respect, and our hands over our hearts as if making a vow or a promise. How on earth did we get that so wrong?
Am I a person of privilege? 100%. Is my entire family, my parents, my parents’ parents individuals of privilege? Absolutely. But I also have something boiling inside of me that makes it near impossible for me to shut up when I hear something I believe to be wrong or hurtful to others. It’s gotten me in trouble in the past, it has made me the “argumentative one” in the family, and I wear that badge with honor. In fact I’m going to make more badges, wear them all over, and hand them out to my friends, and wear them proudly knowing that I will be standing on the right side of history. The side that will actually stand “with liberty and justice for all”, not some.
I am ashamed of myself that while I am not a racist, and when people in my family or that I am close to have said things of that nature in the past, I would call them out for it, but I have not done enough to be an anti-racist. I have made a vow to myself to act more, speak out in a big way, be the argumentative one more often (yup! It’s possible!), and do whatever I can to use my privilege to help change what the past four centuries has done to our system. And in this I know that I am not alone, in this vow to myself I know that there are others who feel the same who are going to be doing the same until we see a change, in this we will be in this together.
This year has brought so many challenges for me and my family. I look back on these past six months and it has been nothing but an emotional roller coaster. It’s been one of those stretches where you’re talking to someone you haven’t seen for a while, start listing everything out, and you stop and realize “holy shit, all of that was in the past six months? That feels like 2 years worth!”. But if anything that life and these past two weeks in particular have taught me, is that CHANGE is something that we can all get through together. Whether it’s with your family, your friends, a stranger who stands with you on the street… the CHANGE can be worked through and in life CHANGE is necessary.
I have been making a list of as many books that I can to continue to educate myself on the topic, so I have provided this list for you in hopes that you will join me in continuing to learn.
– So You Want To TAlk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
– White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
– I know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
– The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
– How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
– Solitary by Albert Woodbox
– Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
– The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
– Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Rene Eddo-Lodge
– Between The World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
– Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue
– Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zara Neale Hurston
– Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
– Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott
– White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
– Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
– This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How TO Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell
– Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell