First and foremost: Black Lives Matter!
We’re heartbroken and angry over the murder of George Floyd – and even more upset that his death is only the tip of the iceberg. In this time that feels hopeless in so many ways, we’re so glad to see people stepping up and speaking out.
During this meaningful week, we’re not publishing any of our own new content on any of our platforms. Instead, we want to take this opportunity to invite you to spend some time exploring works by various Black creators. We’ll also be sharing resources for Black-created content over the next several days.
For any Black readers: please tell us if there’s any other way we can use this platform to help support you. We don’t want to make you do the work and mental labor, so we’re doing what we can on our own. But if you have a specific need, please tell us. We’re here to listen and do what we can. Not only this week, but as we all move forward into a more inclusive and truly equal society.
The rest of this post is intended for any white readers who are on the fence about the situation. You might be able to hear these things more easily from another white woman.
First, I’d like to invite you to read the powerful piece White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. Yes, that involves doing work, but the time has come (more than come!) for us to do this sort of work ourselves instead of asking our BIPOC friends to calmly and politely explain and educate for the umpteenth time without losing patience or showing any hint of exasperation.
For the sake of helping you hear out other perspectives, here’s a bit of my story. I grew up in Berkeley, California, surrounded by incredible racial and religious diversity. And that put me in a kind of bubble of its own. For years, I didn’t see the problem, because I wasn’t racist. So I’m speaking to you from the perspective of someone who understands that view, because I’ve been there.
But the problem isn’t whether you personally judge people by their skin color. (I believe you when you say that you don’t!) The problem is a society that systematically favors those of us of certain races, and punishes those of others. And here in the US, as much as we’d like to think that we aren’t racist, it’s baked into us. It’s in the media we consume. It’s in the nuances of interactions, the assumptions, the “he didn’t mean it like that”s and the “it was just a joke”s.
To paraphrase something that stuck with me (and that I can’t find to cite; please let me know if you know the source): white privilege doesn’t mean your life has been easy and painless. It doesn’t mean you haven’t struggled and fought for everything you have. It doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve it or didn’t earn it. It means that as you struggled and fought and suffered, the color of your skin wasn’t one more burden that you had to carry.
I’m not saying that you should feel guilty about your skin color. This isn’t about attacking you. If you’re feeling defensive and attacked during this time and while hearing these kinds of conversations, please take a moment to breathe through it and reflect on where that’s coming from. I think at its core, it’s discomfort. None of us wants to admit that we’ve been benefitting from a system of oppression. It’s easier to lash out defensively and put up walls than to sit with that discomfort and the feelings of powerlessness to change it.
I’d also like to invite you to notice that the option of running away from discomfort and a sense of powerlessness to create change is, in itself, a form of white privilege. You can turn off the computer and tuck these conversations and topics away in a way that others can’t. Let’s keep having the hard conversations until we’ve worked through them and come out the other side as a society.