Scrolling through my feeds on social media has reassured me that I have the right people in my life. Scrolling and scrolling, I read positive messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Somewhere among the scrolling I read, “USE YOUR TEACHER VOICE #blacklivesmatter” and this reminded me that I need to do just that.
I wasn’t sure what to say at first, but I kept returning to this message in my head, the message to use my “teacher voice.” I feel like the universe is pushing me to.
Those of you who have experienced the wrath of my teacher voice know that this is not my asking, but rather my telling voice. This is my soap box voice if you will when I am talking about something serious and pressing. This is the stern voice that I use when my students do something wrong or especially dangerous.
That means listen.
White people, I am speaking to you with you. We need to start understanding that problems of other people in our country, POC in particular, are our problems too. We are one and until everyone has the same treatment and freedoms, our work on civil rights is not complete in this country.
A video I recently watched asked a group of white people if they would like to be treated as black people are in our country. The majority chose no without question, immediately.
Would you choose no?
Implicit and explicit bias
One would probably not say “I am a racist” but one would say “no” to this question of wanting to be treated how black people are. We know there is a problem underneath. We don’t want to say it, but there is a problem. If you don’t see the problem, why wouldn’t you want to be black in our country?
Is it because you know [underneath] there are issues with systematic racism? You know [underneath] that school systems are not set up for the success of black children? Do you know [underneath] that you want your kids to be elsewhere? Is it because you know [underneath] that things would be more difficult if you were black in this country? That you would be treated differently? Maybe you know that it would be more dangerous for you? Or could it be you know the police would not be on your side?
If we know all of this [underneath] then we know we need change.
According to Ibrah X. Kendi in his most recent book “How to be an Antiracist”, he talks about racism and how our individual social work on antiracism will not actually end racism, but merely “put a bandaid on it.” The thing we need to work towards, he says, is true policy change, true anti-racist policy change. This is something I understand, but a topic that seems daunting. I want to be a part of the change and I know other people do too, but learning how is a process… a process that is okay.
Anything important to us started as something we did not know about. Remember that.
This is not to say that talking to other people and putting the word out does not help. This is just the start. This work needs to be done as well. This is where you build the community that will work to change policy with you. That is the real goal. The goal is to replace racist police with anti-racist policy. One is either overtly racist, a racist of compliance, or one is anti-racist. There is no in between racist and anti-racism.
White people!! WE have to start to be alright with not being right. New information, new data comes about. Your opinion can NOT be stagnant. You can’t be so stuck on an idea that you don’t let new information in.
When I was a teenager, I convinced myself that cigarettes were not that bad. (SORRY MOM!) I grew up and as I read more, saw more stats, I HAD to start to let that data in. Once I let the data in, I did not stop smoking right away. IT WAS HARD. Yes, it was hard to change what was in my brain, but I did because I had reason to. I worked at it. I did the HARD WORK.I did it because I needed to be a healthier person. I did it for my health.
Now do you have reason to work on your racism and work towards being anti-racist? Do you see that we need to do this for the health of our country?
If your answer is not an immediate yes to both questions, I want you to truly consider what being a good citizen to this country is. A good citizen is supposed to vote to ensure we all have the same freedoms and rights here. A good citizen would have to see that there are injustices in our own community and have to help. You can’t ignore what is right in your face anymore. You also can’t have POC in your life that are important to you without seeing the need to fight for them, to be an ally.
I am not going to go in further in depth into issues I have only touched the surface of and have not experienced myself. I will, however, challenge you to do some research.
We all need to start to see the other side and have conversations.
The more conversations I have had, the more I understand where people are coming from. I see small ways we can agree, but also know we cannot change overnight. The work is hard.
In these conversations, we can not be combative to each other for that does nothing but draw us further apart. All we can do in that case is encourage others to do the work and give them the resources.
What else can we do?
Here are some ways I started the work. There are many more and you will find them if you surround yourself with the right people. That itself may be the BEST start.
Do your research and reading. Recognize your privilege and understand others’ privilege or lack thereof.
- You can start with the book I mentioned Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to be an Antiracist”
- Read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh (https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf)
- There are so many more but here’s a start.
Be a part of policy change. Vote for anti-racist candidates. Write letters about injustices. Protest if you can or support those who can.
- I wrote a letter to the Minneapolis police chief demanding that the other 3 police officers be charged for George Floyd’s murder, at the encouragement of a good friend. There were huge protests surrounding this. Now, those 3 officers are being tried. Policy will be affected by this. You can make a difference or rather a network can.
- On that note, encourage others to do the same. Build a network. Spread the word when you can. Use this to support change. Put yourself in good company, like the good friend I mentioned. Surround yourself with the people doing anti-racist work! You can’t be the change if you don’t surround yourself with people who want to be the change as well.
- Donate to organizations that support blacklivesmatter and similar local groups.
Listen. Listen to black stories. Listen to black experience. Understand that you can’t truly understand what daily racist acts feel like and you never will.
Understand you won’t always do it right. Forgive yourself. Apologize. Do Better.
Most importantly, the worst thing you can do is nothing, so just start.