We have spent much of the past several months in deep learning and growth across a variety of avenues, a privilege afforded to us by the Stay-at-Home orders from COVID19. From balancing being a working mother and homeschool teacher, to thinking through how Starfish Impact can effectively shift gears to serve clients 100% virtually, we have been reflecting on our place in the world. Since the explosion of rightful outrage at the ongoing police brutality and indifference to the lives of black bodies by the criminal justice system, I have spent even more time reflecting on what it means to be a white woman and how I contribute to white supremacy. I started this practice in college when I first realized the depth and breadth of systemic and institutionalized racism. And know that this work of lifelong until all of us are truly anti-racist, including willing to face the truth of our history through current times.
I recognize that the systems that allowed and encouraged Amy Cooper to act the way she did, are the same systems that allowed me to get a formal education, to be successful in business, and to build a strong family unit of my own. It should go without saying that a society that lifts some at the expense of others is not one that I am proud to participate in.
I also realize that it is not enough to do good work in support of social justice when it is easy or comfortable for me, such as passively support protests when they happen. That this neither assuages the guilt or responsibility many of us feel as ‘good white people’. And that I must ask myself, “what am I doing every single day to confront systemic, systematic, and pervasive racism?” “What are both the small and bigger ways that I can confront racism throughout the patterns, habits and networks in my life?”
To that end, I wanted to share with our community some of the more thought-provoking concepts that have helped me reflect on my role as a white, cis gendered women in a country designed for my advantage. My hope is that it will help you also reflect on where your blind spots may be, how white America perpetuates these injustices, and begin to better understand the repairs that urgently need to be done.
Tamika Butler, a longtime leader in the Los Angeles social sector, posed the following questions recently in an article we suggest you read:
- Do I understand that not being racist isn’t the same as being anti-racist?
- Why am I so afraid to be brave enough to confront my power and privilege?
- What am I waiting for to decenter whiteness and realize just because I have never experienced it (or seen the research to prove it) doesn’t mean it isn’t real?
- What am I doing every single day to force myself to think about racism and white supremacy?
- What am I doing every single day to stop the killing of black people?
As I reflected on these questions, it has helped me realize that we all live among bias and that passivity is a choice in and of itself. As a self-perceived non-racist individual, my first thought is to act or to attempt to fix the situation. It is an effort to stay in a place of thoughtful reflection and learning, but one that I think is incredibly critical so as not to inadvertently or unknowingly continue to perpetuate white power and white privilege.
To that end, I have reflected on two other pieces that were incredibly thought-provoking for me. Barack Obama penned a recent thought piece in response to the uprising and this line particularly resonated when I think about actions and next steps: “…aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices…” On the other end of the spectrum, Dr. Cornel West addressed Howard University in 2011 with an incredible, and oft-quoted speech. This line stays with me: “Justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private.” as I think about my role in displaying love and tenderness to others.
It can be difficult to sit with this. I think it is important to acknowledge that. But it is even more important to push ourselves.
And while all of this change and uncertainty can be uncomfortable, we think this quote by Sonya Renee Taylor, award-winning poet, activist, author, and leader perfectly sums it up:
“We will not go back to normal.
Normal never was.
Our pre-Corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction…
We should not long to return, my friends.
We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.
One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
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