When my son was born, I read this blog post from the mother of a black son, imploring me and other parents of white sons to teach our sons that they need to be very careful about their actions around her son who was presumed guilty. If the police were called, they’d always look at the dark face in the crowd as the perpetrator and the bad influence. And if my white son and other white boys like him weren’t careful, her black son could lose everything just because he was with my white son who was misbehaving.
And some of the veil of my white privilege began to lift and I saw what white privilege really is:
A matter of life and death.
My dear friend shared with me candidly about some of her experiences.
And I was stunned.
But awakened to the realities and atrocities that can happen to people of color.
Even to MY friends.
Even in MY city.
It is not enough to be colorblind.
It is not enough to know these injustices exist.
The horrific death of George Floyd, like tragic deaths of so many black men and women before him, was a terrible event to witness, and a traumatic visual that will live in our memories (and for some, in our bodies as trauma), for those who witnessed it. I am appalled and outraged along with *most* Americans. And I am awake to the depth of my responsibilities in allowing this broken system to continue.
For too many years now, I’ve known about police brutality and I’ve known that they lie on police reports to cover up their unlawful actions. Not all police are murderers, thankfully, and yet injustices DO exist and are inherent in our system. I have witnessed police, especially in groups, get overzealous and overly aggressive with citizens. I know this happens.
I’ve seen racism in action and I’ve heard comments. I’ve steered clear of people who use hate speech or racial slurs but I honestly can’t say I’ve called them out every time. And that is not enough.
What can I do?
I can actively stand up. My feelings (fear, shame, etc.) are not as important as someone’s life. I can vote and make a difference. I can teach my son not to be colorblind but to celebrate everyone’s differences and to fight for their right to be seen, heard and appreciated for who they are, as they are. I can teach my son to stand up for injustices and I can model that for him. I can teach my son to lift everyone up.
Everyone deserves our love and respect. No exceptions.
So white folx: It is not a time to shame ourselves or each other for not standing up or doing enough sooner. Shame can be stifling and we can get stuck in it like quicksand. We ALL have work to do. If we didn’t, a system in which a Black man can be pinned down against the pavement with a cop’s knee on his NECK until he stops breathing, IN FRONT OF CIVILIAN WITNESSES AND OTHER OFFICERS, would not exist. Let’s do it NOW. Instead of shaming or condemning our white friends for their privilege or fragility or ignorance, let’s move forward in love. Let’s speak up for love and respect and dignity. Let’s work together to change policies that do not promote social, racial and economic justice.
There are so many resources for those of us wanting to do better and many places to start. Please, do not be afraid to jump in wherever you are. Here’s one resource that breaks down what you can do, depending on how much time you have. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1H-Vxs6jEUByXylMS2BjGH1kQ7mEuZnHpPSs1Bpaqmw0/mobilebasic
Let’s do better together.
And maybe we can leave this place a little better than we found it.