I have written and deleted so much this week. But it’s time to boil it down to three very basic points.
- I am saying something because I want to be clear where I stand. I don’t usually engage in political discussions on social media because I believe that adding more voices there doesn’t add value; it just adds noise. And I generally assume that people know me well enough to know my opinion. However, in this current moment, that assumption leaves a margin for error that we desperately can’t afford. So I want it known unequivocally that I am anti-racism.
- I want to encourage and exhort the white community to adopt a practice of silence. Not silence about oppression and injustice and race-induced violence. But silence about ourselves. And I need to unpack this briefly so you understand what I mean (although the very act of unpacking it is contradictory to my point, I know).
My innate desire and constant impulse is to talk about my experiences regarding race. I am a white mom of a 12-year-old black son who is as yet quite naïve about all that is happening in the world right now – and I want to talk about that. I am also the mom of a 21-year-old black son who is currently serving a 7-year-sentence for violence-, drug-, and weapons-related crimes – and I want to talk about that. And there is subtext about our experiences with the police officers, justice system, and media with whom we have interacted during our son’s career of crime – and I want to talk about that. I know that I sometimes still have a flash of anxiety when I see someone on the street who looks like my son – and I want to talk about (and apologize for) that.
We all have personal experiences. And we all have a tendency to want to talk about our own experiences. But my challenge to us as the white community is (to put it bluntly): zip it.
Our white-people experiences are of no value in today’s conversation. Our experiences should not even be informing our opinions regarding how to move forward in the fight against oppression. If we truly are trying to learn and help, then the only experiences and opinions that should be informing us are the experiences and opinions of the people still being oppressed. The voices that matter are the voices of the people whose very lives we claim matter.
That said, we do not get to put parameters on how/when people from the black community speak. We do not get to demand that they teach us. Find the people who are speaking, and listen to them. Find the people who are teaching, and learn from them. Find the people who are leading, and follow them. I promise you, they are easy to find!
- To people of colour:
I see you. I hear you.
I love you. I value you.
I honour your fight and I am so deeply sorry that we have made you fight so hard and for so long. I am also so deeply sorry for the countless times we have not even let you fight.
I weep with you. I stand with you.
I am listening and I am learning.
I am committed to change – for myself, and for whatever sphere of influence I have.