White Folks, Our Road to Racial Healing Lies in Admitting This Is Who We Are.
Do we think to ourselves, “I am not a white nationalist, Proud Boy, white supremacist or Trump supporter nor did I vote for him in 2016 or 2020. I am a liberal. I am a lifelong democrat. I am in no way a part of the deadly coup attempt on the United States Capitol. I condemn such acts.”
Pause. Take a breath. Look inward. Racial healing is for every soul living in white skin. All of us.
Are we on a journey of racial healing? If so, we would be wise to recognize our condemnation of those who support Trump is a deflection of our responsibility in the bigoted world we live. It is our way to separate ourselves from “those white people.”
Pause the instinct to do so. They are us and we are them. One more time…they are us and we are them.
Someone you know may have been or was involved in the attempted coup. Most likely several people you know support the insurrection at the United States Capitol.
This is us. It has always been us. If we didn’t think it was, we weren’t paying attention. White folks, this is who we are. This is our DNA, our kin.
old buddy from high school,
classmate from college,
fellow church parishioner,
favorite barista at our local coffee shop,
local police officer,
We live in the same streets, we grew up together, we share the same DNA and we sleep in the same bed. Sit with this for a moment. Breathe it in.
We cannot separate ourselves or dehumanize the people who insurrected the United States Capitol.
Think of who in our lives are the people who could have been or were at the Capitol on January 6th?
Then, pause and think of what conversations we had (or didn’t have) with these individuals to talk about issues ailing our country?
Or, the last time we shared how we see the world differently?
When we disrupted the racist thought voiced?
We are not immune from the trauma inflicted on BIPOC — whether we, our ancestors or someone we know inflicted it. As I see it, not only the 73 million plus Americans who voted for Trump are complicit to racism but so are each of us in white skin who did not do enough to stop Trump’s rise to power. Maybe we watched idly on while not intervening or we turned away thinking we could protect ourselves and our children if we simply ignored the realities. We hoped we could protect the family dynamic or not sever the relationship if we talked about everything but politics, Black Lives Matter protests, immigration or health care. We didn’t have to talk about Trump.
Can we recall the time(s) when we refused or decided not to say the hard truth?
The thing is this. We can’t unsee, we can’t simply put a bandaid on the guilt and think we’ve masked the pain with superficial healing. When we turn away from the truth, the truth still resides. The truth isn’t erased because we deny it. But, our unhealed hearts deflecting the truth incapacitate us from forgiving ourselves, our ancestors and all of us who co-create(d) racism, the very racism we benefit from and is keeping light and love from living in our souls.
So, we are complicit.
The individuals who charged the Capitol are all around us. But, we didn’t have a clue. Or, we had a clue and opted to not say a word. We did nothing to be anti-racist in a given moment that could have mattered, could have swayed someone’s mindset or heart.
We opted to keep the peace at the holiday family gathering when our uncle voiced racist beliefs.
We didn’t have the courage to say what needed to be said at that meeting at work.
We erased a distant relative from our life because “they are racist.”
We dismissed the xenophobic comment that our friend’s spouse made at that wedding in 2019.
Any time we pivoted to make a racist feel comfortable in our presence, we were complicit.
We have to begin to see this is real life and each of us living in white skin has a responsibility in the manifestation of January 6th.
Ouch, it hurts. I know. I’m white and I have to do the same.. When it starts to get uncomfortable, we can’t tread back to comfort. If we are white and claim to be anti-racist, we can’t opt in and out at our convenience. We have to dig in and commit. There will be consequences but we have to believe each consequence is absolutely worth it.
Do we cherry pick when we will intervene to disrupt racist commentary so that we can keep the peace? Do we consciously choose not to disrupt family dynamics to maintain our own “right to comfort” — teetering in and out of allyship and accomplice of harm at any moment we wish.
Do we feel overridden with guilt and shame? And the only way we can feel better is by reading all of the latest racial education books and pat ourselves on the back for “doing the work.”
Or, do we attempt to immerse ourselves in diverse communities and spaces and claim because of this we are “in” the work?
Do we only share conversation with like-minded individuals because we are not yet ready to discover which relationships we will lose?
If we do not admit that every day we wake we have to re-commit to unlearning we are not (yet) anti-racist. I, too, labor, relapse and re-commit; we will get it wrong though anti-racism requires we not sit in our complacency but do better in the next moment. We devote ourselves to being changed and open to seeing ourselves, others and the world differently. Anti-racism is a moment-by-moment journey of healing and awakening while naming we will never get it “right.” Our whiteness will reveal itself, rear its head at the most unforeseen time, and then, we start all over again.
We don’t get a free pass if we work in social justice, we teach a diversity course, facilitate a book discussion, we shop at business owned by BIPOC, we donate to BLM, we live in a “diverse” neighborhood, we work in a non-profit. (I’m also writing this for myself here as a reminder, too).
We would be wise to sit with ourselves and notice when we feel uncomfortable, when we become defensive or when we want to retreat to comfort. We might pause, notice the discomfort, recognize where we feel it in our bodies and ask ourselves where and how we learned to feel this way? We must also resist retreating back to our comfort.
Anti-racism and racial healing is an existential journey and it takes a moment-to-moment investment and commitment. Yes, there is such a long way to go but we must not turn away from the journey.
As we heal, we take part in a collective journey acknowledging BIPOC deserve better by us, our institutions, our government, our schools, our cities, our states and our nation. We can choose to heal and move differently in all of our spaces of influence. We can do one thing, one act each day to resist getting tangled in complacency, comfort and stagnation. Our individual efforts will never be enough. A collective momentum is required and if we choose to (re)commit, continue or begin our anti-racist healing journey, we could choose to rise from our racialized coma. I hope we find it in us to awaken our souls, heal our hearts, name injustice and racism in all the spaces we see it (especially in ourselves). It is a choice. Let’s choose today and never look back.
We have so much work to do to see Martin Luther King’s hopes come to fruition. I do not want to misinterpret or pretend I understand Dr. King’s plight but I do believe this to be true, he labored for a reality different from the society we have manifested.
As white folks, we can honor Dr. King in 2021 by first admitting who we are and then committing moment-by-moment to be anti-racist and when we misstep, because we will, to choose learn from our mistakes with humility.
What will we choose?