When the pandemic started, I thought of it as being asked to do very little and didn’t consider social distancing and staying at home to be a real big deal. It was the least that I could do to maintain a safe community and get us back on track while preventing any unnecessary damage to the economy. And I think the majority of the people that I talked to felt this way.
Then George Floyd was killed sparking protests across the country and we saw another aspect of our society that it had long been easy to ignore as a white person. I always knew that it was there, but I for one neglected to understand my part to change it.
And for the first time, I started recognizing that I not only had a responsibility to be educated on the two Americas that we live in, but I also had to do my part to be a part of the change that is so desperately needed.
A few things have made me see the world differently over the past few months. First, people pouring their hearts out who have been in pain a long time pointing out that to do nothing makes us complicit. Second, people who believe that their reality is the only reality who make hateful remarks… truly this is a time that has drawn out all the racists. Third, recognizing that I needed to be prepared for a situation in which someone is being mistreated and act quickly. I know from experience that in order for me to be ready to act and know exactly what to do, I have to educate myself and be prepared to respond before the situation presents itself.
And let’s be honest, we all witness situations that are inappropriate and wrong. Oftentimes, I feel as though I am taken off-guard and am too shocked to react appropriately.
So I chose to use this time to learn and grow and prepare. Being an antiracist is a value that I now hold as I recognize that the only way things are going to change is if we change individually. Being antiracist has many dimensions, and it’s important to understand them all. I started with Dr. Kendi’s book to question my own assumptions and ingrained beliefs.
I grew up outside of Detroit and always knew that we lived in a society with extreme inequities. In college, I wrote my master’s thesis on depictions of slavery in a historical context and read books on segregation in housing and schools. While I had an interest in learning, I always knew that it was something that we don’t talk about generally and as a white person, I felt like it wasn’t my issue because my rights weren’t being taken away because of the color of my skin.
But thank goodness times have changed and what we now need above all else is compassion for one another and the desire to seek and learn more about one another and the experiences that we have survived. All the answers lie within and listening unlocks all of the power for a better, stronger society to emerge.
Below is a list of the resources that I have collected and committed to using to expand my understanding of the world around me, please let me know if you have any to add.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo
- How to Be An Antiracist, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World and Become a Good Ancestor, Layla F. Saad
- So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
- How to Be Less Stupid About Race, Crystal M. Fleming
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson, PhD
- Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, Dr. Brittney Cooper
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
NY Times Podcast: 1619
Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?
Rich Roll (Podcast): This Is America: Byron Davis & Phil Allen, Jr.
- ‘Colorblind But Not Colorless’ Phil Allen, You Tube 2:46
- This Is America: Baptized in Whiteness Phil Allen blog post
- 13th on Netflix, a documentary analysis of the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom — and a master class in contextualizing the systemic aspect of racism.
Tim Wise Video: On White Privilege
TedTalk: Lucky Zip Codes