It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Like many of us I’ve been fighting my own battles, dealing with so many significant changes, divorce, heartbreak, a big move to a new city, a new job, poor mental health, parenting a child with special needs, and now a global pandemic. On top of it all over the past week I’ve had to wake to news of another black life lost due to white supremacy.
It’s something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around ever since I was a little black girl growing up in the deep south. It’s inspired many conversations with many of my non-black friends. It seems a lot of us have this question. Why is racism a thing? Why can’t we “see past color”. While I don’t believe “seeing past color” is the answer. I do have an idea why I personally feel racism exists…fear.
Fear has played a significant role in my life. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say fear has stopped me from making important decisions, accepting certain opportunities, or even forming relationships with specific people. If there has been one thing that has held me back throughout my life it’s fear.
So what exactly does fear have to do with race and what’s going on right now? Fear has EVERYTHING to do with what’s going on right now. We as humans fear what we don’t understand. We naturally fear what we aren’t accustomed to because we can’t be sure it’s safe. It’s so new and different so how can we know?
In a country that is over 70% white. White is the norm and though America is a “melting pot” with a slew of people of various ethnic backgrounds, many white Americans (outside of urban areas especially) have little to no knowledge of the experiences of black people. I can attest to this growing up in Arkansas. I was always the “token” black friend. I never understood how I could have SOOO many white friends yet be one of the ONLY black friends many of my white friends ever had and even the white friends I did have rarely got close enough to me to know who I truly am let alone my personal experiences with discrimination. Those that did rarely felt comfortable speaking about it. THIS is a problem.
You see when you get close to people, when they become your friend, a true friend that you genuinely love and care about, fear diminishes. You become curious about their differences instead and you WANT to learn more about them even the not so great parts.
Growing up for example, I had little to no access to Asian people so my first encounter with someone who was of Asian-descent was just sad. I am embarrassed to say I asked the most ignorant questions. I was genuinely so ill-informed and while it wasn’t her job to do so… she taught me so much. I didn’t understand but I was curious and that curiosity turned into appreciation.
You might be wondering what I’m getting at here. I’m not saying making friends of other races will magically “cure” racism. Racism is an entire system and it would take countless books to explain that in detail. However, I AM saying there are things we can do everyday to progress past this. We can get to know people. REALLY know them on an individual basis. We can learn about their experiences. Once I became interested in Korean culture for example I learned a lot of good AND bad things about their culture that inspired me to learn more. It fascinated me that there was this entire worldview that I grew up blissfully unaware of and it made me realize how much I still don’t know. It’s okay to not know.
There are so many white people in America who still (yes today in 2020) have not gotten close TRULY close enough to enough black people to really know and understand us, let alone care for us. THIS is an issue. It’s easy to be far removed from an issue like this when you’ve kept black people at arms length for much of your life and if you DO have black friends just how much time have you spent getting to know them… I mean past the jokes, past the parties, past saying hi to them at work or at church. I mean knowing who they TRULY are, their experiences, what makes them THEM.
Almost every black person in this country has experience with racism to some degree whether they are aware of it or whether they choose to discuss it or not. TALK to them. Get to know them and their stories. Get close to them. Close enough to actually LOVE and CARE for them. Once you do, once you hear our stories the ones our grandparents told us… the painful stories we kept to ourselves and only chose to speak of in the absence of white people. Once you hear those and really get to know us I would love to hear how you’re able to continue to sit back silently or worse justify the continued and unjust murder of black people in this country.
We have to change this. The only way to do that is to come together and I mean REALLY come together. Don’t just send your black acquaintances social media posts. Don’t just post a black square and leave it at that. Let’s talk, lets have coffee (you have zoom don’t you). Let’s build REAL relationships with those who are different from us and let’s be the change we wish to see. Enough talking, let’s do something about this.
NOTE: A few close friends and I will be sharing stories and resources soon if you’re interested in getting involved please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org