Last week, you know that I started the earnest discussion on race and why White people need to be doing their work and why People of Color can’t wait.
This recent 4th of July holiday impressed the importance of this on me, because social media was full of examples and stories of the different perspectives on this holiday, most particularly between African Americans, Native Americans and White Americans. Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that there is universal thinking among everyone who identifies as a part of these groups, but enough sentiment was expressed to easily see a pattern.
Freedom and Independence in America and the celebration of it are cause for difficult conversations among us and few people, in particular White people, are prepared to have them. Until you know about Juneteenth, Native American genocide, why Colin Kaepernick kneels, historical atrocities committed against Native Americans and Black people on July 4, 1776 (and before and beyond) that have purposely been left out of American history, it will be impossible to internalize and understand the divide.
Until you understand the complexity of Black and Brown families choosing to honor family members who served in a segregated and discriminatory military while also being fully aware that the promise of freedom has not been achieved for us, your work has not begun. For so many of us, the reaction to this holiday is visceral. I personally grew up knowing this day as my sister’s birthday and was delighted that the country celebrated her with fireworks. Our parents never spoke of any other reason for celebration on this day, but almost daily spoke of their desperate hopes for us to grow up and live in a country where we are respected, equal, free and safe.
Why We Can’t Wait is because that hope that my parents had, the same that I have for my children, your children and all children quite honestly is fading. There is so much work to be done and frankly, if White people are not engaging in this work in serious numbers, we will not see the promises of this country realized.
With anger and frustration levels at an all-time peak, where can White people start?
Start to develop and cultivate a real curiosity and need to know what you do not know about race in this country. If you are a parent/uncle/aunt/Godparent or just have their ear, talk with your children/teens about race in this country. Don’t just share the importance of having diverse friendships, but share also the responsibility they have as a White friend to be aware of the role and history of race in this country.
Create informal and formal groups for talking with each other about race. Pool your resources and bring in speakers of color who are in the business of educating folk on this issue. Too often we are asked to educate out of the kindness of our hearts and that gets tiring.
Stop telling us how you have tried to bring this up with your family members and you gave up, because they just don’t want to hear it. First of all, stop giving up and start getting resources. Second of all, we all already know how difficult it is to talk to your “collective family” members, we’ve been trying for decades.
Make an earnest, honest search to educate yourself without always asking People of Color to point you to resources. Since you didn’t ask and I offered, here are some good ones:
And of course, if you are ready to take a six month long journey with other White people and me to really begin to do the work on a personal level in order to start having these conversations, then let’s talk here: http://theconflictcloser.com/matter-of-race
White people who are already on the journey: Please don’t look at yourself as so evolved and dare I say it “woke” (that’s a whole other blog) that you can slow down, take a break, stop or feel relieved, you are not one of those “unconscious” White people who are impeding progress. Keep going. We cannot escape it. So, I am asking you not to invoke your privilege and take the easy way out. Encourage, Help, Teach, Organize, Engage.
People of Color: I know you don’t want me to ask you to do one more thing when it comes to this, but I will. Encourage the White people that you know to seek the resources to do the work. Assure them that “seek and ye will find” is still good advice. Just last week, I had to direct a well meaning White male professional to Google, because he wanted to know if I had any suggestions on thought leaders who might have resources on how he could buy from Black-owned businesses in his neighborhood. I assured him that a good Google search would serve him well.
For All Of Us Including and Maybe Most Especially Me: Let’s Keep Going and Keep Hope Alive!