This past week a movement began, or continued I should say. A movement that has been snowballing for decades. In the midst of the protests and riots for social justice for black lives it made me start to really examine and reflect on how I need to be better. What can I do that will impact the deep rooted racial problems and create change. It starts with taking a long look at myself and acknowledging what I have done wrong, how have I contributed to continuing social injustices and what I can start implementing in my daily life as well as my career to make sure that the voices that haven’t had the same rights as mine, feel valued and heard.
I saw a post on a facebook from a white colleague where he owned his past behavior and then I realized it was the only time I had seen a white person admit to their past so they could actually be better moving forward. Acknowledgment is one of the key instruments in any type of solution. We must as white people acknowledge our past behaviors to move forward authentically. We must acknowledge that black lives are not treated as equal. We must acknowledge that cops are not held accountable for their crimes. I must acknowledge that I have contributed to racism. Not intentionally but because of the system I have been brought up in that gave me the privilege to not have to worry about the color of my skin. That gave me the privilege that allowed me to not have to work as hard to feel seen and heard. The privilege to act out without thinking of death as a consequence of my actions.
I was fortunate to learn in a diverse environment at a young age. My elementary school was a rich blend of families from all over the world with it being close to UCSB, a university with an incredible transfer program. Because of this, I was gifted to learn other languages, taste other types of foods, learn from other cultures that would become so ingrained in my being that I would forget why and how I adopted them. That is a problem. The first boy I ever kissed in the back woods of my elementary school at age 6 or 7 was black. Brandon was my best friend. We were so close. He saw me. I saw him. We were both different in our own way, so we could actually see one another. We became so close, that other kids found it weird. We were best friends until enough people made fun of us for being different, that I felt pressured to make a choice to run or stand by him. I ran. That is a problem. I ran until this moment. Until this past week, I have been running from the negligence that I slowly allowed to become acceptable in my mind and body, some without me even realizing it. The moments I wouldn’t speak up, the moments I would make a joke so I could mask my own insecurities, the moments I wouldn’t listen to how others felt simply because I felt I couldn’t understand. Negligence. That is a problem.
Racism and negligence are not in our blood, but it is in our nature. How do we remedy that? How do we start to dismantle and rebuild ourselves/America/World in a way that fixes the issues that we have helped contribute to(whether we realized it or not) in a way that has lasting change? It starts with ourselves. Will your donations, posts, readings, etc… be authentic if you have never taken the time to reflect on what you have done wrong and own it? I know for me it would not. An apology at this point is a bandaid that will eventually be ripped off. A promise however has intention behind it. A promise to yourself that you can be better. You WILL be better. Not for yourself but for others. When you see an injustice, you will speak up. You will take the time to read upon the history of racism and how it works within your own small community and begin to dismantle it. This starts at home.
For myself I have found reflective prompts to start the process. I have listed those prompts below if you would like to try and participate. I also downloaded the app Libbi, which is the public library’s app. On that I created a list of books/audiobooks that have an emphasis the topics of social injustice and raise awareness of important black voices that I can read/listen to. The wonderful thing about this, is that the waiting list for some of these books may be months long. It is an easy way to make sure you are holding yourself accountable to the continuation of educating yourself. Now is also an important time to donate to organizations that help elevate the platforms of leaders who are in the forefront in fight for social justices for black people. For many this is a very difficult time financially, and the idea of donating is something you want to help with but can not. That is understandable. What you can do is make a promise that when you are back in a place of stability you will donate. Do the research, make a small list of even just three or four organizations that you would like to help in the future. The battle doesn’t stop today or in a month from now. Your donations months down the road are just as important as they would be now, those donations will help continue the fight for civil equality. Lastly take a look at your environment. Does it seem diverse? Why isn’t it? How could it be better? Even if you don’t live in or work in a place where there in a strong level of diversity, how can you find ways to change that. Maybe it's bringing it up to your bosses? Maybe its trying to find programs that you can participate in that allow you to connect with people of color. For me personally I know that I can do a better job of making sure that the productions I am a part of have more diversity and when they don’t, ask why.
Acknowledgment is what I have the most control of in this moment.
I acknowledge and promise to be better for the past inactions I did not take. I acknowledge and promise to stop running in moments where I need to stand. I acknowledge and promise to learn from the voices I have yet to take the time to listen to. I acknowledge and promise to be apart of and help create richly diverse environments in life as well as work. I acknowledge and promise to end my own negligence.
Reflective prompts written by @jezzchung
1)In what ways does my proximity to whiteness afford me privileges that aren’t extended to black and brown people?
2)In what ways have I been conditioned to believe in superiority of whiteness?
3)In what ways have I engaged in rhetoric that promotes othering or stereotyping of black people?
4)What can I do to better educate myself on the historical context of race in the country and community I live in?