As I’ve watched the events of the last two weeks unfold, I’ve felt deep pain and horror. Like you, I’ve felt angry, sickened, and paralyzed as the racism and injustice in our country has been exposed and protested around the world.
And yet, I’m a white woman. I cannot possibly understand the experience of living in this world as a black person, any more than a man can understand my lived experience as a woman. I can feel my own pain from the sexism I’ve endured, I can listen to black voices and provide support where I can, but I cannot ever truly understand what it’s like to be black. For I have the privilege of walking in the world in white skin.
Because I’m white, I can forget the color of my skin most of the time. I can go where I please without suspicion. I don’t worry about my son’s safety when he visits a convenience store. It’s all too easy for me to forget the realities that have been going on around us for years, realities that I can no longer forget or ignore.
The videotaped murder of George Floyd made it indelibly clear and impossible to forget. He was only the latest in a long line of others that I too easily forgot about: Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, LaQuan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery.
This time I will not forget. And I will do better. An important step is to be absolutely clear about where I stand.
I am facing my white privilege more transparently. For me, it’s deeply personal. I was raised in the segregated South by a black maid. I loved her deeply, more than my biological mother. Her labors contributed to my privilege. I was fed, dressed, and cared for by her because my own mother couldn’t. I slept on clean sheets, wore clean clothes and did my homework in a clean bedroom because of her daily efforts. Her work, for which she was undoubtedly poorly compensated, gave me a stability that allowed me to do well in school and go on to higher education. And I never thought twice about it.
I grew up in a neighborhood forbidden to her to live in, ate food she prepared at a table she couldn’t sit at with me, and went to shiny, well-appointed public schools forbidden to her children. And I never thought twice about it.
I am now committed to understanding more deeply what it means to be anti-racist. That means I must do more than to silently believe in racial equality and justice. I must be active about it. And so, I write this post, a small action in that direction.
Below are resources that can help you, if you are white like me, understand these issues more deeply.
I encourage you to search your hearts and join me.
Resources to help you better understand anti-racism and how to help:
Helping children and teenagers learn about racism.
How to be a stronger ally against racism, so you don’t have to ask your exhausted black friends.
What it means to say black lives matter and why it doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter.
How to Be an Anti-racist, White Fragility, Between the World and Me, and other essential books about how to help, the black experience, and black lives matter.
List of anti-racist resources from the Greater Good Science Center at UCBerkeley