Have you ever been so angry or upset that you screamed or threw something or both?
If you answered “yes” consider yourself a rioter. I am not condoning hooliganry nor am I saying that rioting or violent protesting is the answer and nor do I want to spend too much time on the topic because I think this topic is a distraction from what is really important. But, in 2011 after the London Riots, an article was published in Psychology Today about what leads people to riot, its “deep-seated resentments, repetitive frustrations, and long-standing disappointments [that] galvanize people into action…And it can become an exuberant experience, a joyful release for long-suppressed emotions.”
I would definitely describe my rage blackouts as an exuberant release!
Anyway, these “deep-seated resentments, repetitive frustrations, and long-standing disappointments” that black people in America are facing will continue to mount until the etiology is addressed and they no longer have to live in fear that the color of their skin could be perceived as a threat or a trigger on someone’s bad day which could cost them their quality of life, their actual life or the lives of their loved ones. If you are reading one of my emails, chances are you see what is happening to black men and women and think it is horrific, but being shocked and saddened isn’t solidarity and it doesn’t inspire change.
Personally, I’ve struggled to know what to do outside of having empathy so I avoided the conversation and repressed my thoughts and feelings about it. I tried to “focus on the light” and hope that by “raising my own vibration” and not participating in racism that I was somehow doing my part. I didn’t know how to handle such a shaky and uncomfortable topic so I used my spirituality as a way to rise above and sleep at night believing we are all God’s children and I am not an oppressor. This is called spiritual bypassing. I finally realized that being pro-unity did not make me anti-racist and focusing on the light did not push out the dark.
I grew up hearing things like “well WE didn’t do that to them, WE didn’t own slaves” or “they pulled the race card unnecessarily so this obviously goes both ways,” or “Some people just have to learn to put past behind them and quit playing the victim.” In about 3rd or 4th grade, I was zoned for a predominately black school, I was one of two white kids. I was picked on, I even had a black mom flip me off when her kid was getting on the school bus, so my mom put me in a different school and considered my experience as more evidence of “reverse racism.” You see, the difference is that kids pick on kids and people give people a hard time and that black mom noticed this white kid staring at her so she flipped me off. But I did not fear for my safety or my life, I just didn’t like to be “othered” and my white momma was able to change that for me by putting me in a different school.
However, time went on, my parents divorced and then I became one of the poor kids with an alcoholic mom who worked overtime or two jobs. Again, I felt othered but I didn’t feel like a minority. In the eyes of my small judgmental town I was still a cute little white girl and THAT brought me value. No one was lower on the value scale than a person of color in my town and that truth is still alive and well in many towns today. Sure we are no longer segregated and value each other individually, we even whitewash the value of good black people who talk or act white. But MOST white people do not have to earn trust from other people, there is an inherent level of trust that already exists. Yet MOST white people are trepidatious when it comes to trusting someone of color, they have to earn it or give us some clue of proof that they are trustworthy. The truth is, it never hurts to be white and it never helps to be black in this country.
You might be thinking, “but black people kill black people every day, those black lives didn’t matter to those black people.” It is true that more black people die at the hands of black people and more white people die at the hands of white people, that isn’t what I’m talking about. It’s the attitude of entitlement and perceived worth that has to change. This arrogance is what leads to the loss or destruction of lives when someone in law enforcement or the justice system abuses power or makes judgment calls based on the color of someone’s skin. Or in the case of Christian Cooper, just a regular white woman weaponizing her white privilege because she can.
So if you are white, you have white privilege. You didn’t ask for it, you don’t deserve it, it just happens to be where you arbitrarily landed on the privilege scale. You also don’t have to feel or accept shame, guilt, or blame for it. BUT you do need to acknowledge it. Every time you deny your unearned advantage you make way for the belief to exist that we, as white people, are entitled to this advantage. Every time you turn a blind eye to covert racism in your community you make way for racist consciousness to exist.
You are probably thinking “what in the world does she expect me to do about it? I’m already nice and I don’t treat people poorly.” Well, I’m asking you to further your understanding of race, assess your own interactions, call out racism and set a boundary where you may have turned your head before and opted for silence because it didn’t affect you or have anything to do with you. Understand that the victim card is played because as a whole, people are still victimized and we only hear about the ones that are horrific enough to go viral. Understand that the riots are terrible and not at all moving us closer to a solution, but it’s also true that the riots have our attention when voices haven’t been enough.
Facing racism and holding yourself accountable is HARD so my BIGGEST ASK of you is to acknowledge the reality and experiences of others as facts and view the facts objectively. Do not put yourself at the center of the narrative. This isn’t about YOU improving yourself, it’s about making change happen by raising your awareness and shifting the consciousness in the world around you, creating a ripple effect of love and understanding rather than one of fear and judgment.
If you are ready to unpack this and need a place to start, you can get microdoses of racial injustice education by following Rachel Cargle on Instagram. If you want a workbook to help you address white superiority within yourself, check out this 28-day workbook by Layla F. Saad. For more information HERE is a document full of resources to start your eye-opening journey. Watch this video from Trever Noah, oh, and check out 13th on Netflix. I am still at the beginning of my work in this area, but as a woman who loves to be seen and heard, I do not want to contribute to the silencing of voices.