Within a short span of time, I’ve read White Fragility, So You Want to Talk About Race, Me and White Supremacy and soon will get to Stamped and How to Be an Anti-Racist. All these books together say just about the same things in different voices and everything they say is precisely what needs to be said and attended to. Has needed to be said for hundreds of years, but we seem to only now (we being white people) ready to hear it, consider it. take it seriously, act on it. Of course, not all of the “we” and that’s a matter for great shame and sorrow. But meanwhile there is more hope than I’ve felt in a long time that people can finally get the incontrovertible fact that white silence is compliance, white silence is a form of violence.
I have been vocal for decades about these matters, but one of the new (old truths) is that no one gets a cookie for doing the right thing. And I’m newly alerted to the many, many ways I could have done better and the many, many ways I’ve (unintentionally, but that doesn’t matter) contributed to being compliant with white privilege. One cannot exhibit an ounce of pride that one is a “good anti-racist” any more than one can claim being a “good parent.” There is always more work to do.
On Facebook, there is an excellent summary of the matter which I include below alongside my comment. For those who have not yet read the above books or are not inclined to do so, consider this summary. And then please, read the above books.
One. More. Time. In case it’s STILL unclear.
• 400 years ago white people enslaved black people. And sold them. And treated them as less than human. For 250 years. While white men built the country and created its laws and its systems of government. While 10, 15 generations of white families got to grow and flourish and make choices that could make their lives better.
• And then 150 years ago white people "freed" black people from slavery. But then angry white people created laws that made it impossible for them to vote. Or to own land. Or to have the same rights as white people. And even erected monuments glorifying people who actively had fought to keep them enslaved. All while another 5, 10 generations of white families got to grow and accumulate wealth and gain land and get an education.
• And then 60 years ago we made it "legal" for black people to vote, and to be "free" from discrimination. But angry white people still fought to keep schools segregated. And closed off neighborhoods to white people only. And made it harder for black people to get bank loans, or get quality education or health care, or to (gasp) marry a white person. All while another 2-3 generations of white families got to grow and pass their wealth down to their children and their children's children.
• And then we entered an age where we had the technology to make PUBLIC the things that were already happening in private-- the beatings, the stop and frisk laws, the unequal distribution of justice, the police brutality (police began in America as slave patrols designed to catch runaway slaves). And only now, after 400+ years and 20+ generations of a white head start, are we STARTING to truly have a dialog about what it means to be black.
White privilege doesn't mean you haven't suffered or fought or worked hard. It doesn't mean white people are responsible for the sins of our ancestors. It doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of who you are.
It DOES mean that we need to acknowledge that the system our ancestors created is built FOR white people.
It DOES mean that Black people are treated at a disadvantage because of the color of their skin.
It DOES mean that we owe it to our neighbors-- of all colors-- to acknowledge that and work to make our world more equitable.
BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Clear and necessary summary. Thank you. White folks (and I'm one), let's get to work. Seriously. And if you need encouragement, here's a thought: all that hatred, inherited and ignorantly or purposefully kept going, eats away at our own souls. Happiness is not riding on the wave of our privilege, but looking deeper into our souls, doing the needed work in company with our neighbors. All our neighbors. Thank you, Amy, for the reminder.