My Response to the Latest Round of Racism
I’ve been trying to figure out what to say about George Floyd and the racism that permeated long before that incident. I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to pretend to comprehend an experience I’ve never had. I don’t want to make it about me.
Furthermore, I’m only one person with few followers on my social media accounts. Does my voice even matter?
As a white female, I sometimes wonder if and how I contribute to society’s problems that seemingly have nothing to do with me. Still, it has to do with us all. I sometimes wonder if I can help.
Day-to-day, I don’t want to get offended on behalf of other people because, in many instances, it’s presumptuous. In cases of abhorrent behavior, I SHOULD be offended on behalf of others. We should all be angry and fed up.
I’ve read and watched lots of advice from people of color who say (re white people), “Don’t talk about yourself or your experience. It’s not about you or your frame of reference.” Allow me to do it briefly:
While in my head, I’ve been thinking about racist acts in relation to antisemitic ones (i.e. those that affect me), I’ve thought about that advice (re. a white person’s experience) and what it means. I recognize that while I believe that staying quiet about antisemitic acts doesn’t mean you condone them, keeping silent about racist activities can appear racist or display internal racism. In other words, it’s not the same thing.
Going out and showing support offline — adding more white bodies and voices to the black ones, shielding the black bodies (as I saw in a news clip). That’s significant. I see how, by staying quiet, I could be part of the problem. Perhaps it’s not enough to correct someone who makes a joke about race, nor is enough to retweet (though those are positive acts).
I don’t want to jump in because ‘everyone else is doing it.’ Wanting to be part of the crowd is good and bad, depending on the intention. I don’t want to speak up from a place of “Look at me! I’m an ally!” That’s about ego. That’s about me.
I offer my warmth, my heart, my acknowledgement that none of this is okay. That’s about the experience of the other. I used to think, “Of course it’s not okay. Shouldn’t it go without saying?” But no. It doesn’t go without saying. It needs to be said.
I’m always concerned that hashtag activism dilutes the message or using hashtags or changing one’s profile pic is an empty (insincere) gesture — again, “everyone else is doing it.” Wanting to belong rather than wanting others to belong.
I want to help, but I also don’t feel the need to commit 24/7. I want to take significant actions to join the chorus because yes, #blacklivesmatter.
It’s not about anyone thinking I’m racist; it’s about putting words of compassion into action.
Yes, I’ll donate, but then what? What happens when this latest shitstorm ends? Who will help when there’s a pause in the conversation when #BLM is no longer “trending”? Who will be the casualty of the next shitstorm? Why does the world need these shitstorms as reminders that bigotry exists and motivation to act?
There are things we can’t understand without first-hand experience. We can all understand tolerance, empathy, acceptance and love (or strive to). We can all try to be more self-aware, to cultivate an understanding of ourselves & others. We can jump in out of authentic concern.
Finally- I’ve made it a point to read the words of and listen to several different people of color because they are diverse in background, experience and expertise. No person speaks on behalf of all, even while living a shared experience. By listening to several people, we learn a great deal more. Listening to diverse voices helps us be allies.
I want to know those varied perspectives.
This isn’t an American issue; it’s a global, systemic issue.