So much of who I am as a human being is this belief I have that I am to meet people where they are at, and inspire them to grow from that point. I do this with my students, with the teachers I coach, with the strangers I talk to in the grocery store, and with my neighbors. I’m a Christian, so I personally believe Jesus does this, and I acknowledge that I would not have been able to learn what I have learned, specifically about race, racism, whiteness, and anti-racism without the patience and gentleness of two Black individuals (both excellent teachers) in particular who did meet me where I was at in my consciousness and allowed me to learn from them and grow.
However, we are reaching a point in the near future, perhaps it is already here, where we will not be able to blame the ideologies we have on not knowing any better.
In 2010, at Bethel University where I was an undergraduate student, a white male student wore blackface in a version of a talent competition. I had never heard of blackface, but I saw that the few people of color on campus were really mad about it. Truly, there was so much ignorance in the waves of white students, many of us growing up in suburbs with “good schools” that accidentally forgot to teach us about Jim Crow, racist tropes, and the trauma of racism.
It’s been 10 years, and have things really changed? Would our current virtual graduating class of 2020 be able to know- across the nation- not only that blackface is extremely wrong, but be able to tell us why? My daughter is about to enter kindergarten in the fall… will her classmates learn this?
Here’s what I am seeing:
- Every company I have ever given my email to telling me about what precautions they are taking for COVID-19 in spring, and now many of them telling me that they value Black lives AND what they are going to do to provide more education for their employees and their customers:
- My public library offering books about anti-racism in unlimited downloadable copies for the summer:
- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, You name it… my whole feed is post after post of resources, learning, lived experiences different from my own, blogs, article links, personal stories, ideas, questions, memes… it goes on and on. If you haven’t seen these posts on your accounts, you might be siloed the same way the white Bethel boy was… and that’s not a good thing.
- Amazing murals all over my city of Minneapolis. Artists expressing their pain, flowers being offered at the memorial site, food being cooked and shared, songs being sung, children attending with their families to pay respects, healing happening for the Black community as they mourn collectively and gracefully allow people who don’t have Black skin to join them…
- Even magazines and newspapers are letting us know about all the films Hollywood and media productions are allowing streaming for free like: Just Mercy, 13th, The Hate U Give, 16 Shots, Burn Motherf-Burn, Daughters of the Dust, Down in the Delta, Portrait of Jason, Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Losing Ground, I Am Not Your Negro, Whose Streets?, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, Selma, America to Me, A Huey P. Newton Story, Emanuel, For Ahkeem, Out of Omaha, Scandalize My Name, Stranger Fruit, The Rape of Recy Taylor…
Resources are being made available FOR FREE all over the place.
So, the reality is, if you are not choosing to educate yourself, then we can’t defend you anymore. It’s time to position ourselves as learners, and do the work of building a muscle for active anti-racism.
I read this quote by Professor and author Ibram X. Kendi today that I truly believe:
“Racist ideas cause racist policies.” (p. 53)
All of us have been breathing in racism. Many of us didn’t even know it. Now, it is being made clear- by Black Americans for centuries, by corporations, through data of police brutality against the Black community, through data of suspension, drop out, and failure rates of Black students in our public schools, through data in our housing, banking, and healthcare systems that disproportionately makes life more difficult for Black humans to get ahead, by many authors who have studied and written and published wealths of knowledge on this topic.
Several of the white people- whom I love- have told me their distaste at this quote below. And I get it. It’s in your face. It challenges you. It blames you. And also maybe it feels icky to read because maybe it’s telling the truth.
Let’s pay attention. Let’s learn and let’s unlearn. Let’s recognize that white supremacy doesn’t just harm the Black community- it harms everybody. As a white woman, my life is much more liberated, authentic, whole, and collective by denying American individualism and white narratives and traditions to be at the center of my worldview. Being in relationship with Black and Brown humans, truly practicing listening, and being offered new perspectives has healed me in countless ways. And while I know there is still a lot I don’t know, I am committed to doing the work of engaging with the conversation, listening to Black leaders and neighbors, and letting the hardness in my heart (that was taught to me both overtly and covertly) soften.
What will your summer plans look like to promote anti-racism?
I am committed to sharing what I have learned in the last decade since I “woke up” to what being white actually meant in the United States- without judgment and with grace through this blog, through conversations on the phone, through group talks…
Here is a document with blog posts that sort of highlight my journey to racial consciousness over the years.
Here is a screenshot that is in real time: Virtual Summer 2020 discussions I am hosting for friends. I’d encourage you to choose a text, study it in a community, and then choose another one.
So far, my husband and I have purchased 200 yard signs and given out 160. We posted it on our neighborhood facebook group/Nextdoor because we don’t want to live somewhere that doesn’t value Black lives.
My friend Abby and I saw a need for families with young children, many of them white, wanting to practice activism together. We are planning at least one protest per week this summer in the Twin Cities and began a Facebook group that grew to over 1000 members within 2 weeks.
We can’t escape the learning, folks. It’s not going away. If it feels like it’s in your face, it’s time to surrender. I promise you… learning is a much better way of living: Let’s create a nation where BLACK LIVES CAN FINALLY MATTER.