I don’t know where to start writing this blog. So I guess I have to dive straight in. The photo of the American police officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck was one of the most dehumanising images I’ve seen in a long time. I kept telling myself that’s a human being, trying to imagine my own feelings of fear in that same situation. The nicety of knowing that is very unlikely to happen to me made me feel better. And that is because I am a white privileged person.
Since seeing this image, I’ve been feeling the discomfort and hard truths of how uneducated I am on the topic of racism. I have questioned the idea of how by staying silent, you side with the oppressor and why I’ve let several conversations in 2020 go unchallenged.
I certainly in no way consider myself to be a racist. When I first came across the idea of white privilege last year, it felt a very new concept to me. I’m a liberal left minded simple living emotional feeling hippie.
The racism I’ve seen over the years has come from older white men, not bad people just judgemental and sometimes narrow minded, but racist nonetheless. Of course I did very little else Ito understand white privilege. Then I went to South Africa in March. The stark contrast of how black and white people live, work and are treated was so noticeable. As a highly sensitive person I felt it acutely.
In a service station cafe, my white privilege of travelling, money and being served by a black woman hit me. I wanted to say: “I’m not like all these people who look down at you, treat you like shit. We are equals. I’m a liberal leftie who doesn’t identify as a racist. Please smile at me.” She didn’t smile back. Feeling my own shame strongly, I walked out to the viewing area trying to assuage my discomfort with ‘maybe she was having a bad day?’ In my heart of hearts I knew this was a feeling I had to feel.
I returned to France, telling a few friends my inner feelings about the country, blatant racism I’d witnessed and how I wouldn’t be returning. I was ill for a few days after and lay in bed listening to Nelson Mandela’s Long Road to Freedom book. It was the perfect antidote and healing tool I needed.
Then confinement happened and I was able to go back to my white privileged life and experience gratitude most days for all I have. I will never forget the basic tiny shacks of the vast townships distinctly separate from the town and so much more.
And so I’ve returned to those feelings this week. Nervously I’ll admit in case I get it wrong, whilst knowing that my silence skirts over the issue that BlackLivesMatter. This inequitable situation that we all know exists and has done for centuries will only be dismantled when we question ourselves. I know this is a hard triggering conversation to have, but unless we do we’re contributing to its perpetuation and by default saying it’s OK that black males get stopped more by the police, that black areas have underfunded schools etc etc.
So I’m educating myself as I no longer want to be oblivious to racism. I’m a spiritually conscious person with a voice that I can use, but I’m not an expert. Like Nelson Mandela, I believe education is one way we can all do it for ourselves. I’m committed to not being silent anymore and actively doing the work to breakdown systemic racism in myself and the world.
Here are some of the resources I’ve found:
- White Fragility – why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism – Robin DiAngelo
- Me & White Supremacy – Layla F. Saad
- So you want to talk about race – Ijeoma Oluo
- 75 things white people can do for racial justice is a great article that we would have found if we’d googled this topic before George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others had died.
- Justice in June is a document with a learning plan for activities to do for 10 minutes a day.
- How to Inspire People to Listen, Care, Take Action & Change the World is a donation based fundraiser writing class next Wednesday June 10 with Alexandra Franzen. 100% of the money goes to BlackLivesMatter & other organisations fighting racism.
Maybe you’re scared of saying the wrong thing? Or curious to know about our unconscious bias? Then I really urge you to educate yourself. It’s not going to be easy and you’re going to feel lots of emotions, but if you’re even mildly interested in seeing change in the world then start with yourself.