It started during a college class on sociology. I was handed a paper with a list of things often taken for granted. One of those was that flesh-colored band-aids would match my skin. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that band-aids had not been made with everyone in mind, but a portion of the population with a certain skin tone. That fact stuck with me, but I was still young and self-focused and didn’t stop to consider what else I might take for granted that affected others in a different way.
The next poignant time was when I had begun listening to leaders who encouraged their listeners to seek out voices of people who were different from us in some way. I decided to read more books by non-white people with a focus on non-fiction, but when I looked at my shelves, there was a noticeable lack of options. Amazon and the library offered easy remedy, but once again I had been confronted by the bubble I lived in.
Reading books by non-white authors gave me insight into how my perspective of the world is very different from the BIPOC community. I had never been concerned about being followed around in stores while I shopped. When I went into a store, I didn’t worry about whether I could find hair products for my type of hair. I knew that “nude” pantyhose would match my legs.
I’ve hiked and walked through parks and neighborhoods and never felt fear that someone would see me as a threat. I haven’t ever thought twice about hanging out in my parked car while I listened to the radio. It has not once crossed my mind that police might break into my house and shoot at me. I’ve never been nervous about violence occurring when I or my husband have been stopped by the police while driving.
I don’t have to worry if my son is playing with a toy gun in our yard or running around the neighborhood with friends at night. I don’t have to teach him what not to wear or how to appear less threatening to others as he grows. I don’t have to educate him on how to behave if he’s ever stopped for speeding or a broken tail light. I definitely don’t wonder whether he’ll get pulled over as a result of his skin color. I don’t worry that my children will be disciplined more harshly in school or labeled problem children just for being energetic or overexcited in class. I have never worried that my daughter might get pulled by her hair or otherwise attacked by an adult if she was being a smart aleck. I have never thought that my actions, good or bad, might represent or be construed to an entire group of people. These things are happening regularly to people in the BIPOC community.
I have been spared because of white privilege. It’s nothing I’ve earned but it’s something that I can and should use for the benefit of those who don’t have it. For many years I’ve unwittingly participated in the systems that harm the BIPOC community, but now that I’ve been learning about unjust policies and social structures in our country, I can no longer claim innocence. If I choose to stay silent, then I am choosing to be complicit in the racism in our country. If I do nothing, then I am using my white privilege to ignore racism and racist systems because they don’t directly affect me while being fully aware that they are causing great harm to many other people.
I know that I still have a lot to learn, and education is only one part of the equation, but I’m hoping that imperfect action is better than no action. I’m afraid of getting it wrong but more concerned with what will continue to happen if I don’t do anything at all.
This post is not meant to be a look-at-me post (and if it seems like it is, I’m sorry). My intent is to help others, including myself, do more to fight racial injustice. I know that I have biases and still have a lot of growing to do, but I want to actively improve. The people who are being hurt by racism are valuable people made in God’s image. If we claim to love God, we must also love all of his people and that means fighting with them for justice.
I’m sorry for the times I have been silent and the times when I have acted or spoken in racist ways. I’m sorry for not actively fighting for true equality for all people.
I’d like to share the resources I’ve been using as I venture out of my bubble and into the work of becoming anti-racist. I joined the Be the Bridge Facebook group which invites participants to complete units containing videos and articles that will increase their knowledge of racism in our country including the history of slavery and racist legislation that continues to exist. It’s a wealth of information and a place where you can interact with other people about these issues. There are local groups where you can gather in person and talk about the effects of racism. There are posts for each state to find people near you. Latasha Morrison, the founder of Be the Bridge, published a book by the same name which is an excellent read with reflection questions and calls to action at the end of each chapter. I will include a list of some helpful books at the bottom of the page.
I’ve diversified the people I follow on social media to hear from different perspectives. Below are links to a few profiles for Instagram and Facebook. It’s important to hear from those directly affected by racism and look at the people who are already doing the work of racial justice and follow their lead. They know what is needed more than I do. Tarana Burke, Osheta Moore, Speaking of Racism, Check Your Privilege, Black Coffee with White Friends, Lucretia Berry, Austin Channing Brown, Amena Brown, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Be the Bridge, Latasha Morrison, Doyin Richards, Rachel Elizabeth Cargle, The Conscious Kid.
There are websites that have assembled action items and resources for all people, but especially for white people who want to know what they can do, and several are linked below. It’s important that we do our own work so that we do not place additional burden on those who are already suffering under systems our ancestors created.
I’m talking more to friends and family about racism and white privilege and beginning to talk in an age-appropriate manner with my children. I know there’s more I can and should do and will continue to take steps. Please share what you are doing and any additional resources you have in the comments. Let’s do better and be better together.
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better. – Maya Angelou