This is the fourth and final week of looking in the mirror while I uncover any racial biases that I had. I’ve been following along to Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. It’s been an eye-opening journey so far and one that I hope continues to grow and change me.
We start off the final week by looking at feminism, or more specifically white feminism. The history of women gaining the right to vote is, unfortunately, also rife with racism, starting with many of the suffragettes who refused to allow white women and black women to march together for rights. And while the vote was won for women, many feminists of the time felt their work was done without considering that in many areas of the United States is was difficult and sometimes impossible for black women to vote.
The same kind of feminism is at work today. When fighting for equal pay with men, white women don’t stop to consider that BIPOC earn even less than white women. They ask BIPIC to get onboard the white feminism train and to forget their blackness. They want support for white women issues, but do not, in turn, support black women issues. A very visual picture of this is the number of women who showed up for the Women’s March in 2017. Where were all those women when it came time to March for Black Lives Matter? Do they even know that BLM was started by black women and is a mostly female leadership organization?
Day 23 was short on reading but long on the impact it in the organizations in which we work and the communities in which we live. White leaders. White leaders have the opportunity to impact how people are treated, they have the ability to impact policies, and to create change. And they need to do better. Perhaps this is the turning point we are looking for, but when it comes to things like politics at least half of the politicians are resisting. They don’t “see” a problem and wants things to stay status quo.emplo
But if those same politicians an leaders and hearing from their constituents that change needs to happen. If they are hearing it from enough people who are coming together to demand change, then there is a chance for change. But if you are staying silent (white silence) and saying nothing, then nothing changes. Remember, you can speak with your vote as well to demand change.
The questions here focused around how we respond, knowing all we’ve learned, when we see white leaders tone police BIPOC or use racist stereotypes or practice cultural appropriation? How aware have you been of whether white leaders you follow are doing deeper anti-racism work?
As a newer resident of Florida, that last question led me to start looking up my local and county politicians. It’s different down here in Florida than how it’s run in Connecticut. And while in Connecticut, I can say that all of the politicians that have been elected in my district, town, and state have white except for one Hispanic mayor. We also lived in a smaller town in Connecticut and got to know our local representatives as well as current Senators.
But we live in Orlando now. It’s going to take some doing. There are city leaders, as well as county leaders/commissioners. All of whom I’ve been pleased with during this pandemic because they were out there making decisions that our governor was too trumpish to make.
On day 24, we look at racism and our friends with questions that included how have we responded to racist words and actions, how have we stayed silent or made excuses for their words or actions. There was a point where I’d been staying silent so I wouldn’t rock the boat. I would post anti-racist stuff, but not really do much beyond that. I would notice when someone would post something that was not out-right racism, but implied…and still I would say nothing or I would just unfriend and block them so I wouldn’t have to deal with it…if only it were that easy for BIPOC.
But things for me really changed after Ahmaud Aubrey was chased down by two racist white men who killed him for jogging while being black. I started speaking out more. I would address the implied racism and overt racism. I’ve shared my blog post about doing this work on my personal Facebook page in the hopes that some would start looking into it as well.
I think discussions with Friends also leads to Day 25, discussions with Family. Granted, for many people this might be deeply layered but it still needs to be done. And not just once a year at family get-togethers. Because we live in Florida and the rest of our family is in Connecticut, most of these discussions play out across Facebook.
When someone posts a racist meme, I now respond to it. Although, lately I’ve been picking and choosing more carefully so I run my feedback across several family members instead of just nailing one when multiple have been posting similar things. Lately, my thing is to address anytime they post about a crime committed by a black persona and blame it on BLM or defunding the police.
One of the questions was how have I excused an elder’s racist views and I know I did that a lot. I would stop them from talking and tell them we couldn’t discuss this subject because we would just get into an argument. It wasn’t the best response and I shouldn’t have allowed what they were saying to be such a flashpoint trigger either. I should have allowed it to be a jumping-off point for discussions. But these opportunities have passed.
Day 26 was a look at values. It’s a reminder, that subconsciously, we have values that are based on white supremacy, while at the same time believing that everyone should be treated equally. It’s work we need to be reminded of, it is work because we still do benefit from white privilege. We need to be less concerned with making sure other people see us as not racist and be more concerned about doing the work that is needed to bring about real change.
It’s about understanding that my apathy and silence have contributed to the problem in the past. And it’s about owning how I can help other people to see that staying silent because they don’t want to rock the boat or because it’s too much of a bother, is not the answer. And that it’s the inaction of apathy and silence that continue to allow racism to exist.
Day 27 looks at you and losing white privilege and what that means. White privliege is not a god given right. It’s a man-made situation that we need to start tearing down. Losing white privilege looks like white people doing the necessary work without having to ask BIPOC to educate us (doing the work for us.)
It’s about being willing to have those difficult discussions with friends and family members and encouraging them to practice anti-racism. Donating money to BIPOC causes, shopping in BIPOC business, calling out leaders, amplifying BIPOC voices for more than just issues of anti-racism, risking relationships in order to have those anti-racism conversations.
I’m willing to do these things…are you?
Day 28 is you and your commitments. The question now becomes how do we move forward knowing what we know now. We cannot go back, we can’t unlearn what we’ve learned, so how do we stay committed moving forward? The journal prompt is asking for three commitments to meet in the next two weeks.
One of my commitments is to make this blog more inclusive by inviting BIPOC women to participate in my Starting Over interviews that are aimed at women in mid-life. And I will do this by asking through the blogging groups that I’m in as well as through this space.
And I’m also going to encourage others to read this book and participate in the 28 day journal reflections. This I will do through my personal and blog Facebook pages and next week, I’m going to do my regular Monday post about the book and encouraging others to participate.
And finally, I will continue to hold fundraisers for and donate money to BIPOC projects. A couple of weeks ago I held a Facebook Fundraiser for PushBlack which is an organization aimed at raising up Black voices and sharing Black news and history.
Please, I hope you learned some things about myself and hopefully yourself during these last four weeks.