Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Written by Sue Staropoli: In these times of racial tension (and awakening for many of us white folks) – I am left with the question – What is mine to do? I am listening and learning so much as I try to open my mind and heart to the suffering of the black community, which has been going on for years/decades/centuries. Outrageous acts of racism may seem new and shocking to us, but they are painfully not new or surprising to African Americans. They’ve lived with this violence and oppression all their lives.
Over and over I’ve heard, from black people – “I’m tired.”
I hear them saying – we’ve been fighting for justice for decades – but the violence and racism remain. They’ve worked within the system to have policies changed, to get better elected officials, to organize to protest peacefully, to have “the talk” with their young boys about how to interact with the police (just to keep them safe FROM the police!). Yet nothing seems to change racism that is deeply embedded in our society's institutions. More deaths at the hands of police, more inequity in the criminal justice system, more inequity in every system (health, education, housing, employment, economic) continue. And we wonder about the rage we’re seeing as oppressed people come to the streets?
I see myself as a relatively awake white person who has no intention to harm anyone – and who cares about the plight of the black community. I’ve read many books, learned about black history and the inequities still blatant in our society, admitted my white privilege, made some black friends, contacted my legislators about changes needed, given money to advocacy organizations, and attended numerous protests.
Still, I have recently been challenged to face the reality that I am not “innocent” – that there is a virus in my own brain that subtly is suspect of black life. I live in a culture that has contempt for black life and I am part of it. I am appalled by the (liberal) woman in central park who called the police on a black man, knowing that her white word would outweigh the word of a black man. Yet how often when I’m driving in certain neighborhoods do I make sure I have the car doors locked? What subtle messages do I carry about black people being less educated, less “proper” (in the way they talk or dress), not fitting into our white norms? And how often do I do acts of charity – helping “them” – but still from a place of white superiority (not listening to and empowering unheard voices)? How often do I get out of my white comfortable bubble?
I’m realizing I need to start this work for justice by pointing the finger back at myself, rather than just at the police and “the system.” I need to do the “inner work” to face my own bias and make peace with my privilege and shame. It is from that self-honesty that I am free to take action from a place of true solidarity.
Join me by doing your own search. Based on your situation, resources, environments, how can you listen more deeply to black voices, use your privilege in situations to demand change, to use your voice to inform and support white friends of good will as we each ask this question – “what is mine to do.”
One thing I see I can do, through my platform of the Pachamama Alliance of the Rochester Area community, is to use our website and newsletter to offer educational resources about the history of racism, white privilege, and ways we can learn and grow in this work of standing in solidarity.
You can find these resources at the following link.
Please join me in sharing this information within your own network.