Have you heard people saying how tired they are of Covid, and all the restrictions it brings to their lives? We have been fighting this since March. We are in our seventh month. It has consumed half a year. It feels as if little progress has been made.
There is another issue even more serious and widespread than Covid that has been fought for centuries. As with Covid, not everyone believes it is real. As with Covid, people attend to it differently. As with Covid, the people fighting it are not only tired, they are exhausted. This centuries-old issue is bigger than even a pandemic and has been more harmful. It is racism.
In light of yet another shooting of a Black man, it is not OK this month for me to write about anything else. What else really matters in light of the treatment of others we are witnessing? This problem does not need a vaccine to make it go away. The ability to abolish it is in our power and our hands. Yet we do not use that power to eradicate it. As white people in 2020, we have to challenge ourselves why. Do we not care enough?
I have lived my life as a female white person. Can I say I know what it means to be Black? To experience racism? I cannot walk in those shoes to share that experience. Yet there are things I can do and I must do.
- It is in my power and it is my responsibility to expose myself to what racism means to a Black individual, to educate myself about it. I must learn how to demonstrate true empathy by documenting and acknowledging the experiences that are true to my fellow Americans who are Black. I have heard white people in light of the tragedies this summer say they are tired and cannot watch any more of it on television. Really? We are too tired as whites? This is beyond unacceptable. What must the fatigue be like for a Black person?
- I must recognize my white privilege. It provides me many things that I must realize so I can then acknowledge the privileges Blacks do not receive. Things are not equal. As a white, I can be silent if I want to about what is happening to Blacks and my life experience will stay the same. As a white, I don’t have to fear my child might be harmed or killed in situations that should not be threatening, but are due to the color of skin. As a white, I can take a pass on weighing in on any discussions of racism, telling people I don’t want to say the wrong thing, so I say nothing. Thus I do nothing. These things are built in to being white. We need to challenge privilege. It is a foundation for inequity.
- I must make the task of dealing with racism a priority. If I hear a slur or racist remark, I must address it. I must not let the national conversation die as we chronologically move on in time, or leave it to only the Blacks to continue. The saying “if not now, when” must register with me. This is a task for me in my lifetime. I cannot share the experience but I can share the work.
As I write this article, I am telling myself what I need to focus on now. Now I ask all of you to join me in this focus. We all need to hold tightly on to what needs to be done. The opposite of fear is connection. We must connect with this issue and each other. If not now, when?