An Open Letter to My Friends and Family About Racism

I’ve been asking myself recently,  “How can I be so different from my friends and family back home”?

I can no longer ignore the ignorance and conscious or unconscious racism that I witness on some of your feeds. What I do know is that I can talk about racism and issues surrounding and encourage you to do the same.

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” Angela Davis

A few things that I would like to point out.
For those of you saying all lives matter: you are missing the point. No one is saying that all lives don’t matter but, black lives are in danger and have been for a very long time. That is what the focus of this movement is.

Saying “all lives matter” is the equivalent of telling your neighbor “all houses matter” as their house burns down. All houses matter; not all houses are on fire.

For those of you saying blue lives matter: again, you are missing the point. There is no such thing as a “blue life.” We all know that there are good cops, but right now police brutality is not something that we can ignore. Not to mention, officers choose to be officers. While police officers can go home and take off their uniform, people of color (POC) have to live with that all the time.. Saying “blue lives matter” is an attempt to undermine the “black lives matter” movement.

For those of you saying white privilege doesn’t exist: This is a perfect example of your privilege and entitlement. You may have worked hard for what you have, but that ignores how your experience has been very different because of your race.

This is a systemic crisis that is embedded into our schools, churches, workplaces and family histories. White privilege exists as a direct result of both historic and enduring racism, biases, and practices designed to (intentionally or unintentionally) oppress Black Indigeonous and People of Color (BIPOC). It doesn’t mean that your life hasn’t been hard. It means that the color of your skin isn’t one of the reasons your life has been hard.

Some example of how the color of your skin hasn’t made it harder for you:

  • Black people are less than 13% of the U.S. population, and yet they are 31% of all fatal police shooting victims, and 39% of those killed by police even though they weren’t attacking.
  • 1 in every 15 Black men (and 1 in every 36 Latinx men) are currently incarcerated, while for white men the statistic is 1 in 106.
  • Whites are 78% more likely to be accepted to the same university as equally qualified people of color. Emphasis on “equally qualified.”
  • A black college student has the same chances of getting a job as a white high school dropout
  • While a college-educated white American has an average net worth of $75,000, a college-educated black American has an average net worth of less than $17,500.
  • Black men make even less: 72¢ for every dollar a white man makes.Combine gender and race, and it gets even worse: Black women make 64¢ for every white male dollar, and Latina women make 53¢ for every white male dollar.

For those of you saying I’m not racists! I don’t see color: Many sociologists argue that claiming not to see race is just a way of ignoring discrimintation. Also, literal science says otherwise. Perceptual differentiation of race occurs rapidly (in less than one-seventh of a second) and starts as early as 6 months of age. To say that you don’t see race means you don’t see the oppression that BIPOC face. Instead of ignoring our differences, let’s CELEBRATE them. Being able to “not see color” is also an example of having white privilege. You can choose to not acknowledge the oppression BIPOC face because it doesn’t affect you.

And, for those of you saying that you deserve to be thanked for all the thousands of white people who died during the civil war: Well, I don’t even know what to say to you. I’ve been trying to break that one down… and honestly, it comes down to what the civil war was about. Civil HUMAN rights. Why does the color of a fallen soldier’s skin matter? The civil war ended many years ago but unfortunately, the oppression never fully went away. It just changed forms. After slaves were free, segregation thrived and black people were heavily criminalized, refused services, and violently abused. Not to mention, Black people face oppression every day and are being murdered by the police. And you still want a thank you? For what?

I’ve come to discover that it is nearly impossible to be raised in our white society and not have racial ideologies….I personally have A LOT of unlearning and learning to do. Where we go wrong though is when we ignore that this is a REAL problem. A problem created by white people, us. And it is our job as white people to fight it. Is it easy? no. What I challenge you to do is:

Embrace some cultural humility.

Cultural humility is a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of their own beliefs and cultural identities (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998).

There are three elements of cultural humility:

  • Life-long commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique

Personal reflection. How have you been a part of the problem of racism? Check out the Covert Vs. Overt Racism pyramid. Have you unintentionally participated in any covertly racist acts? I would say many, if not all of us have–and that is contributing to the problem. What do you actually believe and value? Question your own ignorance, and dive into the systems that you belong in and their role in racism and white supremacy. This means sports, music, workplaces, brands, etc. This also means religion.

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  • Fix power imbalances

Based on your reflection–what power imbalances exist? And how can you be an advocate within systems, groups, organizations, churches and workplaces to correct power imbalances?

  • Develop partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others

Who are you spending your time with? Are they racist? Are they diverse? Do they challenge your perspective?

This will all cause discomfort. Trust me. But with discomfort comes growth. To work toward equity for all humans, we must start with advocacy for the most marginalized.

Where to even start? Well read, listen, watch material developed by or supporting people of color.

Some recommendations include:
Watch 13th on Netflix
Rachel Cargle’s 30 day of learning #dothework FREE course
Listen to the 1619 Podcast 
Layla Saad’s Me & White Supremacy Workbook 

Or here is a large list of books you can read from black authors. Some that have been recommended to me personally include:
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Check Your Privilege by Myisha Hill
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ve always been disconnected from the world I was brought up in. My family, community, school, church, etc.  And for the first time I feel empowered to speak up. I don’t know everything….I am still unlearning and learning. All I know is that I can’t remain silent or neutral. If you’re neutral, you’re on the wrong side. I don’t ask that you attend a protest or do anything you are uncomfortable doing. The work starts from within. If you are refusing to listen and hear, maybe it isn’t because the information isn’t valuable but because you’ve been taught to conform or you’re just too comfortable.

Also, please stop sharing videos of famous black people agreeing with you if you are unwilling to read a book from a black person with expertise or PhD in their field disagreeing with you. This isn’t learning. It is an easy and convenient way to use black voices as a weapon to confirm your own personal bias.

Just to be clear, I can accept that my friends and family have different opinions than I do. I cannot accept my friends and family holding beliefs that ultimately deny people human rights.

If you would like to engage in a conversation with me about this please let me know.

Citations:
https://www.tolerance.org/
Theatlantic.com
Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
https://www.aclu.org/
https://www.whiteallytoolkit.com/
http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white
FBI Homicide report
https://www.thenewprogressive.net/ultimate-white-privilege-statistics/#1
Brookings.edu

Instagram:
@wastefreemarie
@frontlinemedics
@therealrynnstar
@soyouwanttotalkaboutit
@literally_cultured
@mengwe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwBjF_VVFvE

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