When George Floyd was murdered a few weeks ago, I was disgusted, angry, frustrated, scared…and paralyzed. When the protests and riots started, I sat and watched. I’m a person who needs time to process. And there was so much to take in. So much emotion. So much news, talk-shows, podcasts, books, movies and articles. I applaud the people who were able to jump into action immediately and visibly show up in a meaningful way.
For me, I’m generally very thoughtful and intentional with how I act. And I couldn’t act until I could process. I suppose I was stuck in a fixed mindset with, “I don’t know where to start or what to say.” And definitely, “I don’t want to get it wrong or get called out.” I’m happy to mediate other people’s conflict. Heck, I do it for a living. But I don’t like to create my own conflict. And yet, I must. Or else I remain complicit.
While taking in all this “new” information, I was stuck in thinking, “I thought I knew better. I thought I was a better, more self-aware person. I thought I was doing good.”
Turns out I have a lot to learn. And when we know better, we do better. This right here is the opportunity in front of ALL of us right now.
With a little time, I’ve moved through being paralyzed. I’ve been listening, reading, watching, and speaking against injustice by thoughtfully calling it out on social media or amongst friends and family in a way intended to educate, not ridicule.
I’ve proactively immersed myself in many resources that are new to me (see Resource List at the end).
I’m willing to take the risk of being wrong, of creating conflict, of making mistakes. I’m unwilling to take the risk of doing nothing.
One of the most impactful resources so far for me is the book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. Below is a powerful excerpt from the chapter, “Nice White People”. You can hear her read this excerpt and listen to her further as she’s interviewed on Brene’ Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us” in the June 10, 2020 episode.
“When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it’s easy to start believing bigotry is rare and that the label racist should be applied only to mean-spirited intentional acts of discrimination. The problem with this framework, besides being a gross misunderstanding of how racism operates in systems and structures enabled by nice people, is that it obligates me to be nice in return, rather than truthful.
I am expected to come closer to the racists. Be nicer to them. Coddle them. Even more, if most whites are good, innocent, lovely folks, who are just angry or scared or ignorant, it naturally follows that whenever racial tension arises, I must be the problem.
I’m not kind enough, patient enough, warm enough. I don’t have enough understanding for the white heart, white feelings, white needs. It does not matter that I don’t always feel like teaching white people through my pain. Through the disappointment of allies who gave up and co-laborers who left.
It does not matter that the well-intentioned questions hurt my feelings or that decisions made in all white meetings affect me differently than they do everyone else. If my feelings do not fit the narrative of white innocence and goodness, the burden of change gets placed on me.”
I encourage you to get this book and keep reading. It’s powerful stuff that is waking me up.
Racism is so systemic. Which defined means, “total and complete”. White people cannot see the problem and cannot see that white people are the problem. The only way to change your thinking is to feed new information into your brain.
Below is a list of resources I challenge you to make time to read, listen to, or watch. I am committed to actively being a part of the change. I am talking with my teenage son, my clients, and their organizations about what we all can do to be better. To effectuate change. To not be silent any longer.
Finally, here’s the beginning of a list of resources that I’m currently finding educational and worthy of sharing. In addition to my list, check out this extensive resource list from The Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement at Rutgers University.
Anti-Racism Resource List
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness Austin Channing Brown
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo, PhD
How to Be an Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi, PhD
“Unlocking Us,” Dr. Brene’ Brown: Recent episodes with: Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Anti-Racist and Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here
Uncomfortable Conversations with A Black Man (Series), Emmanuel Acho
The Gardener’s Tale, Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones
The Difference Between Being Not Racist and Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi
Leaders to Follow on Instagram or Facebook:
- No White Saviours @nowhitesaviours
- Layla Saad @laylafsaad
- Rachel Cargel @rachel.cargle
- Check Your Privilege @ckyourprivilege
- The Great Unlearn @thegreatunlearn
- Ibram X Kendi @ibramxk