To start, I want to say this: Black Lives Matter. I have been spending my days at my beach house reading books about white fragility and white privilege. It has been an eye-opening experience and so long overdue. And yet, even saying these things holds an absurd amount of privilege.
I have always thought of myself as a strong supporter of anti-racism. I did not grow up with exceeding wealth, and quite frankly had many obstacles to finding success. Some of which were my own making of bad choices and little guidance. But the road always existed for me to succeed when I wanted it, and I assumed that road was available to all people. After all, this is America: “the land of opportunity.”
My parents left their home in Ireland to provide such opportunities for myself and my siblings. I am learning–and I have just hit the tip of the iceberg–that being white gives me the privilege. I’ve never thought about what it is like not to be WHITE!
But more so, I’ve never asked the Black community what they needed. How they feel about the treatment and their place in society. Maybe it was because it was uncomfortable and I didn’t see how I could make it better. I would need to make it better; I would want to fix it. So I went on, convinced that everyone had the same opportunities as I did.
I now see how my actions, or inactions thereof, have perpetuated white supremacy. It was in my blind spot, and I did not see it. I think of myself as a pretty aware person, and I am here to say I completely missed it. I realize how much more I have to learn about what it means to be anti-racist. I am willing to do the work. It WILL be hard, I WILL be wrong and, at times, not say the right thing. But I will be in the conversation; I will challenge my beliefs. I will learn from my new teachings and my own life experience, developing a way to be sure that I honor the Black and brown community with the dignity they deserve. I cannot go back and change history, but I can learn from it.
Now, I am not falling on my sword for the sake of appeasing the moment. I am not apologizing for being white. I am saying that I am complicit, and I am guilty of being ignorant of the truth about racism in America. I am open to knowing the truth, and I believe that we are at a tipping point right now across the country.
To be anti-racist isn’t easy work. Many racist moments and movements are riddled in the anti-racist’s intentions, as we declare ourselves to be well-intended white people. For the most part, it is because we just don’t get it. How could we? We have never lived in a world where the color of our skin puts us at a disadvantage.
Some people don’t even give it any thought, not because they are bad people, but because they don’t live it. It doesn’t affect their everyday lives. A lot of white folx are just trying to make it themselves. However, it’s time for us to step up. There’s no excuse that can let us off the hook for not actively participating in the work of anti-racism.
We must work to create a world that completely eradicates the systemic brutality and oppression we see today. Black people can be killed by just going out for a jog. Black people can be found guilty of a crime they didn’t commit, with slim chances of being proved innocent. Or, if they did commit a crime, they are charged exponentially more than their white counterparts committing the same crime. Imagine having to teach your children to be invisible, but somehow still work to stand out and succeed. It needs to change, and we can do it.
So what do we need to do to fix these problems? The short answer is, I don’t know. The scale of these issues goes beyond police brutality and relational racism. It’s systemic, pervasive in all areas of our society – healthcare, education, housing, criminal justice, finances, lawmaking, opportunity, lack of representation, etc. We need extensive policy reform across the board, and unfortunately, I am not the one to solve it all.
I do know, however, that you and I can start with our own education. The La Bella Vie team and I have been doing a lot of reading, listening, and reflecting, and we have compiled some of the resources that have been an excellent starting point for us down below.
And I also know this: we’ve got to start talking to our kids about these things. Our little people today can be the leaders in wiping out racism for generations to come. Learning how to speak with them about racial inequalities and what it means to be anti-racist, checking our white privilege at the door, can change the world!
We’ve got a long road ahead of us. It’s going to be backbreaking and tiring, but it’s time for us white people to carry the load. But I truly believe change and progress can be made, bit by bit, until we live in a more equal and just world. Together, we can do it!
The 1619 Project by The New York Times Magazine