I know your post wasn’t directed to me, but I couldn’t resist responding to your heartfelt message.
Medium’s ripple effect is mind-boggling, in much the same way the good we do or attempt in the world ripples out to others. I, too, was touched by John Metta’s “I, Racist” essay; so much so that it moved me from never talking about race (let alone write about it) to talking and writing about it more than anything else.
I want to encourage you in your awareness of what black Americans are and have been enduring. The accompanying shame I can’t address because … well … I’m not white.
The question is: now that you’re aware of what’s going on what do you do to quell the angst or anxiety? How do you go about restoring an internal sense of balance?
It’s really quite simple (but not easy).
You don’t have to change the world. No one expects you to.
But what you can do is bring about change right where you are. And you start with yourself. Do what you’re doing right now: continue to educate yourself. I say that not as an admonition, but as enthusiastic encouragement. Talk to black Americans you feel you can have this conversation with, but know that black Americans are not a monolithic group. (Opinions about race relations in America will vary.) Engage people of color with care, respect, and a willingness to listen. Do this with a focus not on yourself, but on their experience to better understand their situation. If you start with that mindset, I guarantee the experience will be far more rewarding than you can imagine.
Start small. You’re most likely to have the most influence right where you are, with the people you know. You don’t have to lecture people, no one likes to be lectured outside of a classroom. You can leverage your white privilege by speaking out against racist acts right when they happen—in the grocery store, at church, at work — wherever you see those incidents of racism. Become the person who doesn’t laugh at disparaging or racist jokes and when people ask why, use that as an invitation to tell them why that line of thinking offends you.
This is all about timing. Your timing. And your time is now.
Speak up when the confidence of your conviction in what you know to be right and what to do is right tells you that to remain silent would betray who you are as a human being. That’s when you speak out. That conviction, also know as character, will motivate you, give your words substance, and eradicate the hollowness you mentioned.
Thanks for joining the conversation. Being aware of racism and wanting to speak out in favor of peace and justice my puts you further along the path than you know.
Love one another.