How Long?

Check out this new song from Andre Henry. Support this artist and buy the song:

Heartbreaking. This is a song of lament and anger in the face of yet another trauma for the black community. Different day, same story.

Listen to the lyrics. Remember the names of Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland. Think of the many others who have been murdered because of their blackness.

George Floyd.
Ahmaud Arbery.
Atatiana Jefferson.
Philando Castile.
Freddie Gray.
Eric Garner.
Breonna Taylor.
Botham Jean.
Michael Brown.
Walter Scott.
Alton Sterling.
Samuel Dubose.
John Crawford III.
Akai Gurley.

These are just a few of the names. There’s too many more to list them all, even as each one deserves to be remembered. Are we paying attention? We should know these names, but sadly it’s hard to keep track of so many. How many others happened in the shadows that we’ll never know about?

I struggle with sharing this. I really do. Not because I am unsure of what I believe. But because (‘m evaluating my complicity in this never ending narrative of black lynchings. Here’s the inner monologue: “Does it even matter? Is this just another social media post for me to share my righteous indignation with the world and feel better about myself? Then I can go back to my privileged life feeling like I’ve made a difference, but actually have done very little in the big scheme of things. I confess this is sometimes true. Am I just a social justice warrior feeding into the culture wars? That’s what some think, and those are the ones I really wish would hear me out the most. But they most likely won’t. Because these conversations feel like everyone’s already made up their mind. Team #blacklivesmatter or #alllivesmatter. Choose a side. So then is this post really just for my own affirmation? For the likes and comments from people who already agree with me. I don’t think it is. I hope not. But if all I do is post on social media, I have to admit that it might be true.”

I have to ask myself these questions honestly. Am I going to do more than just get angry and sad? Because if not, then nothing changes and I’m part of the problem. It might help my white guilt to to shout publicly that I am not like those other white people, but it won’t actually do anything. And no one wants my white guilt, anyway. And the truth is, I am like those white people. The point of living with this and trying to get other people like me to pay attention isn’t to make us feel guilty. It’s so we can know better and change course for the future. I’ll never stop speaking out, as I believe it’s always worth saying something. At the same time, I must continually examine my motives and how I’m using my voice. Talk has to be followed up with action.

A few thoughts on what action might look like:

  1. Start with meditation. Ask yourself (myself, to be very clear) how you are culpable in white supremacy and what it will take to change things in your circle of influence. Ask yourself what you are willing to change in yourself. Just stop and think for a minute. These stories aren’t statistics. These are people. Live with the grief and pain. Don’t skip over it.
  2. Do your own research. Don’t expect oppressed groups to educate you. Find credible sources. Use google. Might I suggest checking out the incredible work of Tori Glass and her White Homework for a list of resources. It’s truly a gift. Read books, listen to podcasts, and study so you actually know what’s up. Make sure your sources are people of colour, as white folks have a tendency to believe we know what’s best, which obviously isn’t always the case.
  3. Once you’ve done this, now it’s time to speak up. If you see racism happening, speak up. Call it out. Don’t let it go unchallenged just because it’s uncomfortable. Say something, whether it’s at your dinner table or church on Sunday morning. Talking with your neighbour or interacting with a police officer. Don’t walk past when you see it happening. Never speak over or in place of those you are trying to support, but don’t be silent when you know something is wrong. If white privilege is good for anything, it’s that maybe people will actually fucking listen to you. I wish that was a joke. Sadly, it’s not.
  4. Put your money where your mouth is. Support organizations and artists doing this work. Support Tori Glass and Andre Henry and Equal Justice Initiative and any other you know of that inspires you to act. Donate your resources to support the work others are are already doing in their community. Organizations working on racial issues don’t need another white saviour who thinks they know all the answers. They need money in order to do the work. If you can volunteer, do it. But be sure to listen and learn first.
  5. Show up. If there’s a protest, be there. If a person you know from the impacted community needs help, offer your support. This might mean making a donation to an organization or it could be buying an activist dinner so they can have a rest for just one night. If it means writing letters to your Government, get your pen ready, if it means using your vote to change the system, vote for the best interests of others rather than your own.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I definitely don’t always follow through. These suggestions aren’t actually my own, but things I’ve learned from gracious activists along the way, willing to share their pain and experience. We won’t get it perfect. Sometimes we’ll mess it up and look like a fool. Allies often come with good intentions, but end up centring themselves and might miss the mark. Resist the impulse to make it all about you. It’s a hard line to walk at times, as speaking up from your position of privilege is important. But how we speak matters. Are we shining a light on us, or on the issue? My dad always gives me this advice. He tells me that if things are confusing or I’m in a messy situation, to start by doing the next right thing. So look for the next right thing in your circle of influence and do it. Because this MUST change. Dammit, it has to change. Wherever it is that you call home, it’s happening. I’d love to believe racism is over and that we are all equal. But if you believe that to be the case, then your head is buried in the sand.

Do we have the strength to stand alongside those suffering and say enough is enough?

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