Monday, June 1

The Summer of COVID and George Floyd

This is the year the world convulsed. Today, June 1, I read about experts being concerned about the spread of COVID-19 because of the George Floyd protests. I doubt the protesters--the legitimate protesters who have something invaluable to say about systemic racism in this country--care quite as much about COVID-19 as they do about being heard.

I cannot imagine the pent up frustration and rage felt by black and brown people. I cannot imagine the fear experienced by some members of law enforcement when confronted by angry protesters when emotions ran even higher. I applaud those who marched peacefully and respectfully. I'm in awe of the members of law enforcement who knelt in solidarity and of those who kept their wits about them and did not further inflame anyone who was trying to incite any sort of violence.

I do not have any answers though I know I can do more in my own small way to help make a difference for our shared futures.
These issues confronting people of color are not new. This is not a broken system. Please note: If this is a systemic problem, it is because the system was built to that there are the marginalized who are viewed as other, as less, because they are not White. Further note: This is a systemic problem. Sure, laws have been passed to try to manage the flaws, but many have served only exacerbate.

It really should not be that hard to see human beings as human beings, and yet somehow we manage to make it incredibly complex because we insist on labeling people by color, by gender, by sexuality, by religion. Yes, I understand the need to differentiate and I know we are long way from being able to identify people without using labels. But I cannot make any assumptions about anyone because of the way the way their clothes, the length or color(s) or style of their hair, or anything else.

I need to be more careful about examining by reactions to anyone. As a woman, am I being smart about a situation or am I being fearful for dubious reasons? As a human being, am I making assumptions about someone's behavior because of projected cultural interpretations?

If you are interested in knowing more so you can do something, anything to help bring out systemic change, you might start here: "For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies" (2017). You don't have to agree with everything is this article, but you have to be willing to open your mind and read it, and then think about why you don't agree with any parts of this piece. If all of it is too overwhelming, pick one thing that you know you need to address and start there.

I can't speak from the perspective of a person of color, but my heart tells me that a place to start is to stop suggesting that being colorblind is a good thing. I understand where that comes from as I know I've had that position in the past. But I also learned from some very dear African-American colleagues and friends that being colorblind is, in my words, stupid. They are people of color. Gorgeous and complex hues of black and brown. I dishonor them if I refuse to see the color of their skin because that is part of who they are.

I think about some of the Muslim women with whom I've been able to work and some of what I've learned from them about the worlds in which they live and worship.

If you want to try to take a step further, investigate what it means to be an ally or an accomplice. I think "accomplice" may make you feel uncomfortable because that word now means to be involved in a crime, but it used to have a stronger meaning of being associated with. So you don't have to be an accomplice, but at least think about being an ally.

I know I'm not alone in talking about what White people can and should be doing, or sharing posts about what our brothers and sisters of color have been talking about for decades. And more of us need to be talking and, more importantly, doing. I'm not talking about marching with protesters. I am talking about working within your spheres of influence to help insist on change, to help on dismantling a system that overlooks and undervalues children and adults of color, and to ally with those people to rebuild and reinvent what could and should be.

Don't be distracted by the looters and the ones inciting violence. Those aren't just black and brown faces involved in that fracas. There were and are plenty of White faces, too.

Don't be distracted by the "what about. . .?" arguments because those are just too numerous to count and are generally used as a reason not to do anything. 

Yes, these days are unprecedented and we are at risk of being exhausted by the convulsive nature of these times. Now is the time, however, to rise about our collective anxiety and often incoherent thinking to do whatever we can, however small a step or action.

Any step forward, no matter how small, is still a step forward. We just need to be brave enough to take that first step.
  • Educate yourself. Understand what it means to be an anti-racist and why white fragility is a thing.
  • Acknowledge that if you are White, you are privileged. Period. The end. Full stop. No matter what I've experienced as a woman, I've experienced those challenges as a White woman. My struggles are my struggles, but not at all like those struggles of my Black friends and colleagues.
  • Figure out at least one thing you can do to make a difference and realize that you may lose some friends over your actions, so that will mean deciding what is more important to you. Maybe you will decide it's time to show up for racial justice or maybe you'll find something you can do in your church or your community.
I am not alone in sharing a number of resources so we can all learn more. From John Spencer, A.J. Juliani, and Jennifer Gonzalez by way of Dr. Pamula Hart, Erica Buddington, Ken Shelton, and others. Hear their voices. Pay attention to their words.
Like many others, I am still on this journey. I have not done enough in the past and need to do more or at least other. If I am not part of the solution, then I am part of the problem. 

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