There is a lot going on right now. And none of it’s comfortable. I think I have to start there. There has been so much, from Covid-19, to the horrifying death of George Floyd, to the protests and riots, to the clearing of the steps of St. John’s Episcopal in D.C. There has been so much to wrap my brain around, and so much to break my heart. And not a single bit of it is comfortable.
I have written and rewritten this post at least 3 times. Because it’s not comfortable, and I have to get over that. Because for too long, so many black Americans have lived in less than comfortable, they have lived in fear. And it has to stop. So my discomfort really doesn’t matter in this moment. It doesn’t hold a candle to what others have lived with their entire lives.
Yes, I am a white person. And as a white person, living in America, I have benefitted from systematic racism. It makes me sick to say these words, but they are ones I have to own. It is also clear that I have to help change that reality. To be silent is to be complicit, and I refuse to let myself be used in that way. So, I’m taking up a challenge that Ivirlei Brookes put on Instagram. She posted a video about how she felt a white person could help in the fight against racism.
Toward the end, she said she was sure people would be posting and sharing about her video, and she’s right. But she asked people to do more than that. It isn’t enough to share a video and say, “oh look, I did my part, I’m good now, right?” Wrong. She called on everyone to go out and say what she said in our own words, staking our own reputation and claiming a new identity as a person who stands against racism in no uncertain terms.
Don’t just share it, say it.
So, here I am.
The first thing I need to do is spend time reflecting on how I have either contributed to racism, ignored racism, or stayed silent while it played out in my presence.
Next, I have to make a commitment to myself that I will not tolerate racism in my presence. It’s not funny, it’s not a joke, it’s not just an opinion, it’s not a one time thing. I need a bright line in the sand over which I will not allow myself to step past with anyone else.
That second point feeds straight into this last one. Ben and I will not raise children who are passive in the face of racism. I want them to be bold, to be willing to stand up for their friends, to have the words to express what they see, here and how they feel, and to demand justice where injustice exists. But above all of these good and true things, I want them to recognize that each person they meet is first and foremost a beloved child of God. That we all were loved into being by our Creator.
One simple thing I am going to do as a homeschooling mom is check what books I am putting in front of my kids. The literature they read is highly influential on how they are thinking. This is true for adults as well. I want to show them a rich diversity of characters and heroes who stand up for what’s right. But I need to be aware of who those characters and heroes are. Are my white kids only reading about other white kids? Or are they finding heroes in Asian, South American, African and Middle Eastern children as well?
There is an app which makes this so easy, there’s no excuse for all parents to be using it. It’s called “We Read Too” and it is a massive booklist broken down by reading level, including picture books. There are books upon books which have children of color as the main characters. There are books with black children in schools, Chinese American immigrants, Hispanic children celebrating Christmas and Easter – you name it. Each book has a short description and picture of the cover. Many are Newbery Award winners among other prizes. This is such a rich resource for all parents. Books spark conversations, they inspire new ideas and ways of thinking and they help us process challenging topics.
Now that this is all out there, it’s still uncomfortable, but a bit less. I have some words now, I am building confidence. I am still learning and listening. There can be no middle ground when it comes to racism. It is past time to end the systematic and pervasive subjection of black Americans to lives of fear, anxiety and less than the best we all have to offer.
So, if you want to become an ally for black people, especially if you a white person, take some time to dig within yourself. Where do you need to change? Make those changes. Listen to the stories of others, share what they are saying. But most importantly, say it yourself, using your own words. Don’t just support the change, be the change in your own life. Every single day.