The first time I witnessed and truly understood overt racism first hand was when I lived in NYC for a summer internship during college. Two of my friends came to visit. We went out for dinner and drinks and cut through Union Square to get to my apartment. It was late at night but we were happy and calm walking through the park. On the other side, a police officer stopped us and said the park was closed after 1 am (these were the days when that felt like an early night) so we apologized and said we had no idea and wouldn’t do it again.
He said it was ok but he’d have to give one of us a ticket. He pointed to my one friend, a black male… and gave the ticket to him. He didn’t give one to me or my other (white) girlfriend. I started to get really angry but my friend caught my eye and just shook his head with a look in his eye that I’d never seen before. I truly did not understand what was going on until we walked away and he explained that what I had just witnessed was not uncommon and that situations like that escalating were also no uncommon.
I lived in New York for 8 years after college and witnessed more than a few incidents similar to that one. I never stood up for the person who was wronged in the situation. I never said anything. I just felt sad and angry but moved about my life without any consequence. I’d think to myself how could people be so racist? But what I didn’t know at the time and what I do know now is that silence is a big part of the problem.
I’m embarrassed about my behavior as a white person living in a deeply racist country. Like many other white people I’ve kept my mouth shut because I didn’t think I could help anything as one person. I have been in countless rooms with countless people who have said something racist or made a racist joke. And sometimes I spoke up. But more often than not, I’d awkwardly walk away and fume internally.
One time I got so angry that I screamed at a friend because she said something incredibly racist. We never saw eye to eye and are no longer friends. But that was it. Just the one time.
Why? Because I’m scared? Embarrassed to be the only one who doesn’t laugh at a joke? I’ve been thinking a lot about why I react the way I do in these situations. Social pressure encourages silence. But that’s an unacceptable excuse.
I want to be the person who names it when I see it and calls it out publicly even when it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to be the person keeping her mouth shut because it’s easier that way. On top of that, I want to work to understand why I, and many other white people, react the way I do which means having conversations and reading books and soaking up information.
Starting now, I’m working to better educate myself something that I encourage all of you, especially those of you who feel lost in what to do next, to join me in. Anel and I are committing to raise our daughter with an open mind and heart and to not only understand the systemic racism in our country but to fight it with a voice that, based on what I’ve seen so far, is going to be loud and strong.
As a white person, I fully realize that I have an incredible privilege to speak up without fear. My daughter will have that same privilege. I will try very hard to never take that for granted again.
What happened to George Floyd and Amaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor is nothing new. But as a white person, it is now impossible to look away and pretend it’s not happening. Protests are happening all over the country. It is everywhere in the news. How sad is it that this had to happen for many of us to sit up and pay attention?
I read countless articles and posts yesterday and found the following ones to be the most helpful. It is 100% my job to educate myself but if you have other resources, please feel free to share them. I want to learn and grow. A lot of this might make you feel uncomfortable to read. But as Tatiana Mac wrote in her White Woman’s Guide, “Never allow yourself to stay comfortable. Comfort is complicity. Discomfort means change. Sit with it.”
The New York Times 1619 Project: I haven’t finished every essay here but I spent hours yesterday reading through as many as I could after a friend sent it to me.
Save the Tears: A White Woman’s Guide: As the author puts it, “If you’re a white woman who is watching the world burn because of police murder against Black people, and you don’t know what to do, I wrote you a guide.”
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice: A fantastic and comprehensive list of meaningful (both small and large) things you can do as a white person to fight racism.
How To Be a Better Ally (Found via Jess Kirby)
A Conversation Guide for Racial Healing: I found this guide about how to start conversations about race with people in your life to be extremely helpful.
Why You Need to Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”: This article is a year old but more relevant than ever.
#DoTheWork course: A free 30-day email course from Rachel Cargle. I signed up for it last night and will let you know how it goes. In the first email, she writes, “I hope that through my course your heart and mind will unlearn, expand, grapple, dissect, engage, and build a critical awareness that will change the way you move through the world as an ally.”
@thecounsciouskid: An incredible Instagram resource on parenting and education through a critical race lens. I found this graphic about overt and covert white supremacy to be particularly eye-opening.
For even more resources, articles, books, and Podcast recommendations take a look at this Google doc.
This is obviously only the beginning of my education and work towards becoming a better ally. Let’s all help each other do better. There are petitions to be signed, donations to be made, books to read, and conversations to be had. Start somewhere.
FYI I’m always open to constructive discourse from people with different political views but on my platforms, all racist comments will be deleted. There is no room for hate here.