Yesterday, when discussing how upset we have been with the events happening in our country, my mom asked me if I had been writing lately. You see, whenever I have felt lost or disheartened, I have turned to words for comfort. I have looked to quotes for wisdom and guidance. I have journaled for clarity. Writing has always been an outlet of mine.
But lately, I have felt a little extra lost…
I answered my mom by saying, “I have, but only privately in my journal because I have heard conflicting thoughts on whether white people should be speaking right now.” For the last two weeks, I have struggled and gone back and forth about whether it is more appropriate to be silent during this time or to be sharing. Since you are reading this now, you can tell which decision I ultimately landed on.
I used to think it would be inappropriate for me, a white person, to say, “black lives matter.” I feared that it would be cultural appropriation and I never wanted to diminish someone’s identity and culture by commandeering what isn’t mine.
However, now I am starting to think that it is more inappropriate for me not to say anything. Black people are historically silenced in our country, while white people are given a voice. And it’s time that we use our voice for good.
I will never say that I share the pain, or the fear black people face daily living in America. But I will say that I share the anger and I am committed to continue learning about cultures different than my own and how our country is implicitly discriminating against them.
I am just beginning this journey. I think it would be ludicrous for me to say that in two weeks I have learned enough and can empathize with over 400 years of systemic racism. This is not a concluding paragraph. The real work begins now. It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and post on social media while it’s popular to do so. The hard part is recognizing your biases when everything goes “back to normal” and you are not reminded on Instagram daily. The practice of anti-racist education within yourself and with those around you is difficult but it’s also the most necessary part.
So, I am no expert. My eyes have only recently opened and I’m still waking up. I am learning, reading, listening, discussing, and I still have a lot to learn.
But this I know for sure…
To rob someone of a sense of identity is to strip them of humanity. To say someone’s identity makes them less of a person is to destroy what makes our world so beautiful. The most beautiful thing about the world is our individuality and uniqueness. It brings innovation, creativity, and artistry, all of which have helped evolve our world over the course of time. Fostering differences and encouraging new perspectives is to believe in the future, believe in growth, believe in evolving to a greater society. Everyone brings something different to the table that contributes to the development of our beautiful world.
Everyone deserves an identity. Everyone deserves to celebrate their culture. Everyone deserves an education. Everyone deserves a home. Everyone deserves healthcare. Everyone deserves a love story. Everyone deserves the opportunity and joy of a child to call their own. Everyone deserves life, for our world is dependent on this diversity.
A puzzle is not made of one shape over and over. It is the different shapes and how they fit together that make the beautiful picture in the end. Every piece is embraced for what unique part of the picture it holds.
You know how frustrating it is when you’ve almost finished a 1000-piece puzzle and yet there is one piece missing? That’s because the picture is not complete without every single piece.
It is what’s unique to each puzzle piece that makes the picture so beautiful and it is what’s unique to each of us that makes the world so beautiful.
So, if you are reading this, I encourage you to learn about the world around you; every different color, every different shape, every different culture, the very aspects of life that are important to other people. Dive into the differences amongst humanity deeply. Strive to understand what is important to others and what their daily lives look like. Understand that it will be different from your own, but that you might also find some commonalities that you never expected.
Stay open-minded. Stay kind. Stay curious.
I am committing to using the following resources to educate myself and I urge you to as well:
- Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection– Netflix has put together a collection of documentaries, TV shows and movies, including the three listed below, available for free for the month of June. (Side note: I think this is incredible of Netflix. Right now, we need people offering what resources they can and I think this is a perfect example of what a brand can do to promote a cause and use what they have for positive change.) The three I would most recommend/will be starting with myself include:
- 13th on Netflix– If you don’t feel like you understand what “systemic racism” means, this is the number one resource I would recommend. Racism is more than just being bullied due to skin color. I watched this documentary once during undergrad and another time about two weeks ago at the beginning of June, and each time, it opened my eyes more and more to the barriers our country imposes on the black and brown people of our society.
- Just Mercy & American Son– I have not yet watched these but it is my understanding that both of these films focus on how black people are not treated equally in our justice system and are often accused of crimes that evidently have not committed. I am excited to watch both of these and learn more.
- Between The World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates– I read this book for another class during undergrad and I am re-reading it at the moment. It is a letter from father to son about the world they face as black men. I’m going to be honest and say I “read” it during undergrad, but I don’t think I actively read it. I was not as engaged with the text as I could have been. Now, I am challenging myself to read it with the goal of understanding and internalizing which is resulting in a different reading experience and I would highly recommend deeply reading this text.
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, Layla Saad– This book is specifically intended for a white audience. I have never read it before, though I am specifically interested because I would like to know how as a white person, I could genuinely create change in our world. I still haven’t discovered, other than educating myself and those around me, donating to causes, or signing petitions, how I can change the world for future generations and I’m hoping this book provides the tools.
- So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo– This book provides an overview of racism in our country while also incorporating specific advice on how to begin combatting racism, discussing racism, and dismantling a long history of systemic racism in our country. Another one I am excited for because of the tools I think it will provide.
- The Hate You Give, Angie Thomas– If you are looking for a novelistic, fiction style of story, while also wanting to learn more about implicit biases and racial injustice, this is my recommendation. For yet another class during undergrad, I read this one and I absolutely loved it. The best thing about this book is that it showcases a number of different perspectives. It is about a young girl who lives in a black community but goes to a private, privileged, predominantly white school. An occurrence in their town makes national headlines and sparks discussion. Oscillating between different perspectives amongst various people in her life, you learn about two different sides of the same coin. It is enlightening to see how the same event can affect people so differently.
These are the resources I am starting with. My first goal is to ensure that my words match my actions. I have always believed in diversity, but the artists, authors, and brands that I am consuming do not reflect a value in diversity. I am starting by listening to stories different than my own and learning more about the world around me.
Like I said above, this is not a concluding paragraph. This is only the beginning for me.