I can remember when Dr. King was killed. My mother sobbed and my dad looked profoundly sad. They had moved my sister and I into an all white neighborhood three years before his death and we were dealing with a lot. My parents, my mother in particular, knew that the best education was being given to white children and they were determined that we were going to get it right along with them.
My parents, like so many black parents, saw education as the way to get the life that white people were allowed to live. It was a huge change for all of us with many sacrifices and frankly, a great deal of pain. However, my parents really wanted it to work, because they believed that we, their daughters, would eventually live in a country where racism no longer existed.
They were wrong.
My children won’t even exist in that world unless we all learn how racism works and affects absolutely every part of how this society functions and then we dismantle it. The majority of people of color already know this, though many still have a lot to learn. White people, you are way behind and it’s time to catch up.
People of Color,
I know you don’t want me to ask you to do one more thing when it comes to racism, but I will. Encourage the white people that you know to seek the resources to do the work, to start now and to keep doing the work no matter how easy it is to go through life without doing it.
I need you to break the culture of silence around racism. I need you to recognize that being a nice person is not the same thing as being an ally and being nice is not enough.
Allies don’t just give themselves the title, they do the hard work of admitting to themselves that they cannot see the truth. Allies know that there are other white people out there who know more than they do on this subject and they go and learn from them.
Allies know that they must check the privilege they have of being able to put off learning how to do the work of confronting their own conscious and unconscious bias and do it now.
Allies know that the “nicest” thing that they can do is seek out those groups of white people and/ or people of color who have been doing the work of dismantling racism, join them, learn from them, bring home the skills and do the horribly uncomfortable work of teaching these skills to their children at an early age. They do this because not only is it right, but they know that their friends like me have little choice in when we teach our children about this because the world confronts our children with it at a very young age.
Allies prepare their children to truly be friends with children of color and particularly black and brown males by having that really heartbreaking conversation with them about the fact that should they be driving in a car or walking down the street with them and get stopped by the wrong police officer, their mere presence can literally change the “complexion” of that interaction and not in a good way as they are apt to think.
Allies tell them that their friend’s safety will be affected by them understanding racism in this country and how it actually works. That unlike the encounters they may have had with police, when they are with their black and brown friends and in an encounter with the wrong police officer, everybody better know what to say and how to conduct themselves.
Allies whether they have children or not talk about racism with their family and friends. Yes, I have heard some of you complain about how hard it is to confront white people about their “stuff” and how you just stopped, because it became too much. And I as a good friend refused to stifle my sarcastic and truthful remark of “who you tellin’?”
Allies recognize that your privilege allows you to checkout while the blackness of my skin never gives me a pass. As black people, we do talk about racism consistently with each other, because we are believed by each other, we experience it regularly and our very existence depends on us being vigilant about it.
Allies recognize that doing this work means creating tension for themselves, their loved ones and for society and they do it anyway. As I think back to Dr. King and I think of my parent’s biggest dream for us and Dr. King’s dream for this nation and look at where we are right now, I have to call upon his words which are seldom quoted by white people.
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.“ 1963 Birmingham Letter
It’s 2020 ya’ll. I am not giving up on this. What are you ready to do about it?
If you want to do the work with me, I am starting another session of my group for White people who would like real leadership, guidance, knowledge and calling you in to look at your stuff, but also helping you get out there to have these conversations at home, in the workplace, at school, in your communities, on social media or with those family members who just don’t get it. Here’s the link… https://theconflictcloser.com/matter-of-race2