This blog is for white folks. Black folks, brown folks, I’d be honored if you spent your precious time reading it but honestly, don’t waste it.
This is a blog about a well-meaning but apathetic white chic and her awakening to a cause for which you’ve been fighting for 400 years. I hope you can rest. Hug your kids or watch some bad TV. I hope you can find a way to give yourself some replenishment after not just the past month, but after centuries of hoping and fighting. I hope you go get yourself some Ben & Jerry’s and be with your friends; you profoundly deserve it.
I haven’t been passionate about Black Lives Matter. I’ve watched black and brown people being shot by police, being kept from jobs, decent housing and education, being saddled with a cause that they may or may not want to fight for, just because of the color of their skin. I’ve watched them fight this injustice with dignity and passion. I’ve watched their white allies support them, standing side-by-side (or sometimes in front of their black and brown friends, to keep them safe from those who would do them harm). I’ve watched and I’ve watched and I’ve watched. And did nothing.
Oh, I felt bad about it, to be sure. As a good liberal, I listened earnestly as my ministers tried to explain white privilege. I could give a brief synopsis of the history of racism and outline the basic concepts of books like White Fragility (Although I hadn’t read it. Still only 1/3 of the way through). I shook my head solemnly as they explained the deep and personal pain black and brown people face while doing things like going shopping, dining out, or just walking down the street. I sometimes even donated a little to those who were really doing the work; wishing them well and thanking them for their efforts. I wrung my hands. I shook my fist (metaphorically) at the system. And most of all, I felt really, really bad.
And then I went on about my day, because I could. It’s been over a month since the riots. Particle boards are coming off buildings and by and large, cars are the only things in the streets. I could forget. In the past I would forget. I’d breathe a sigh of relief and move on. Because I’m white, because it wasn’t my family or my community, I'd have picked up the threads of the reality I was weaving and move on, essentially unchanged. I’d move on because ultimately, I didn’t think my remembering or forgetting made much of a difference to anyone.
But that isn’t true. The world has changed, hopefully irrevocably. I realize that I have two choices: decide to be one of the ones who help shape it into something beautiful, or cower in the dark, watching it burn.
So, like all hard things I’ve tackled in my life, I’m breaking it down into small, manageable steps. Protests freak me out, so I leave voicemails for my leaders instead. I can’t solve economic injustice, but I’m donating a little more to organizations (Check out Black Visions Collective and throw them some scratch if you feel so moved.) that give black and brown folks the support they need to flourish. I’m not a politician and I can’t create sweeping reform on my own, but last week I canvassed for signatures to recall a politician of whose agenda I don’t approve. I’m not marching on Washington, but I just had an unpleasant conversation with a co-worker about an innocent-seeming joke that left my soul with that not-so-fresh feeling.
Little things. Small contributions to a cause that needs so much. It’s not enough. What I do will never be enough. But it beats sitting on the sidelines. It beats wringing my hands and standing in place as the world gets remade around me.
What small, sustainable contribution do you plan on making to create the world you want to see?