The muffled sounds of protestors with the buzz of drones and helicopters blanket the night as my toddler sleeps soundly in the other room. I’ve opened up my computer to write about myself but the words seem sidelined by sheer insignificance in comparison to the weight of the world. Before I can return to writing about my tiny life’s big move, I feel compelled to share a personal journey that I’ve been on.
As someone with such an affinity for sentence structure, I’ve certainly been at a loss of words. Protestors gather for the 17th consecutive night and I’m thankful that so many people have found their voice as I still search for mine. I don’t want my silence to be misconstrued as compliance or violence. There should be no doubt that I believe that Black Lives Matter. But standing behind those three words, without really doing the homework, feels like a copout.
When hard at work, I often spend more time listening than talking. More time sitting quietly with myself instead of taking loudly to the streets. I spent several days in the discomfort of my white guilt, fear, pain and bewilderment. I want to make a good ally. I thought I was already a good ally.
We’ve each spent our lifetime gathering our own truths and translating them into how we interact with this world. I grew up in New Mexico and my high school was the most diverse in the nation at that time. I didn’t see a significance between the tone of my skin and that of my friends. It’s only 20 years later that I’m realizing that’s part of the problem—not acknowledging race and taking into account the history and the continued disparities in almost every aspect of our paralleled existence. As a woman who has based a lot of my self worth around being empathetic, how have I been so removed from the suffering of my friends? I am devastated and disillusioned and am putting mindful effort into improving.
I’ve been having lots of aha moments, though they are more of the soul crushing, sob inducing, shock and anger type of moments. I have a lot of catching up to do because I’ve spent the last 3 years purposefully in a protective bubble—carefully avoiding watching depressing news and intentionally steering clear of anything to do with Trump. Just happy thoughts and positive energy while I cocoon, creating my tiny innocent child. Oh, aha, that is White Privilege. Even though I am a single parent, I am “a pretty white girl” and my parents are my safety net, society will catch me, the police will protect me and the “Universe” will always provide. Pardon me while I have an existential crisis over here.
The mind is an unreliable source. (Side note: have you ever watched the show Brain Games? If you haven’t, you totally should— it’s a fun Netflix series that shows you just how susceptible you are to being unconsciously influenced.) My son turned two in January and we started preschool at the cutest little Montessori/Reggio Emilia influenced school, in a house with an organic garden, 400ft away from our front door. Another 400ft away is a Head Start school in the basement of a church. After my kiddo’s first week of school, as we’re walking by, I see a group of kids outside playing, everyone is having a grand time, not a white face among them. Aha. I hadn’t thought for a second about putting my child in that school, hadn’t even considered it an option. Instead I stuck my white kid in a white school with white teachers and gave it no thought.
So how’d that happen? I was raised in a non-racist family and have collected and connected with people of all different shapes, sizes and colors. But I’m realizing that society has still managed to whitewash my brain into thinking that I am not a part of the problem. Like somehow not making conscious racists decisions excuses my participation in the continuation of segregation. If I believe that the school that I chose will provide the better education, then shouldn’t that set off even more alarm bells— for doesn’t that mean that we are already setting our next generation up to have the same disparity gap as all generations before? Like so many other white people I thought that being non-racist was enough. But it’s clearly not. We must gather together as mindful anti-racists to actively make changes.
A Black friend of mine was telling me how jarring it was that all of a sudden all of these white people are so aggressively jumping on the Black Lives Matter movement. A Black guy, walking by at that moment, without missing a beat, echoed her bewilderment. To them it’s hard to see why today is different than yesterday when it comes to the subject of race. There has been COUNTLESS deaths and injustices, so why are white people just now seeming to notice? They are rightfully concerned that it’s just a passing phase; lip service to a bandwagon.
Well, as one of those whiteys just now REALLY clueing in, I whole-heartedly believe that there is potential for real change, now more than ever. We’ve all spent the last several months sitting alone in our rooms, struggling with fear, loss, sadness and isolation. People cross the street when they see us coming. Many of us have the added stress of financial insecurity and the future feels so uncertain. From what I’ve grown to understand, this is how it has felt to be Black in this country for hundreds of years. They say that the best way to understand someone is to walk a mile in their shoes, and this mile has been excruciating. I’m sure that I am not alone when I say that I feel completely raw, disillusioned and devastated.
We have all been forever changed. And it is this destruction that has primed us to rebuild into something better. To join forces with others, to feel a part of something bigger, something more important than the self. Add in some super graphic videos, heart wrenching photos, a name like “George” that is already synonymous with firsts in American history, an approachable face for the masses and you have the perfect storm for active change.
My knee jerk reaction to the first time I saw the words “Black Lives Matter” was to say “But wait, All Lives Matter!” If you’re still stuck on that you need to learn more and think more. The BLM movement isn’t saying only Black lives matter— it’s not giving something worth by taking away from everything else. It’s about finally amplifying a voice that has been drowned out by white noice. It’s about acknowledging the struggle, the discrimination, the violence and the injustice. It’s about making their fight our fight and actively working toward a better future. Together. Not segregated. Change. Is. Possible.
**Image of June 2020 protests in East Point, GA. Check out more of his powerful images on his website at www.colehowardphoto.com **