How Can I Help?
Updated: Jun 4
Over four-hundred-years of oppression, I've written these words before. Ten generations of being forbidden education. Another ten generations of simply making it impossible to catch up: jobs, education, housing. And the last five generations pretending equality has been granted - as if it were ever America's to grant. I am embarrassed by my whiteness today. I want to call my friends of color and ask, "You don't think I've ever been a racist, do you?" I want to re-affirm that I have been an ally. Then I dry my tears and admonish myself - this isn't about me.
George Floyd. People are appalled over the destruction of cities. Although there's mounting evidence much has been started by agents trying to fan the flames of hatred - again using Blacks as their weapon, their tool, their slave - but, how could you not witness the daily punishment of those who look like you and not want to burn everything to the ground? How many times must a white man put a knee (or a hand, or a rope) around a black man's neck before every institution of discrimination is burned to the ground? I ask you, How are we back here to a place we never left?
I had eight years of hope. Did Barack Obama do enough for the Black cause while he was in office? It's a question that holds the fragility of a high-wire act. By virtue of becoming the first black president, yes. In other ways, perhaps not enough. But again, his balancing act included a pretty intense flame-throwing component. Do I even have the right to judge?
I was recently made aware of this video of Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies, discussing the concept of white rage. It's the rage many white people feel when a person of color succeeds. Barack Obama's presidency brought white rage to the forefront in a huge segment of society. Against unfathomable odds, a black man became president. It was the pendulum swinging as far to the good (not left, not liberal, but good) as possible. But like many pendulum swings, the counter-swing has been deadly, and opposite (read that as bad, evil).
I've been looking for answers, google searching things like What can one white woman do to help the cause of discrimination? The search keeps leading me to Amy Cooper, the woman who called 911 on a black man in Central Park after he asked her to leash her dog. Every time I see it, a welt of shame rushes through me - as if my color and gender have connected us. I won't glorify her by linking this article to her name. I know on an intimate scale I've played a positive part. I've brought up three fine women of integrity. Fortunately, my Southern Baptist father wasn't a racist, and my 6'4" basketball-playing husband was the product of New Bedford High School - where whites currently make up 31.5 percent of the demographics and not much more when he graduated in 1966. Racism wasn't an option in our home.
Do I have the right to tearfully cry out, "Please don't destroy your homes and businesses! Tell me how I can help!"
Rapper Killer Mike reluctantly, tearfully, appealed to the community of Atlanta, Georgia on Friday night, begging people to turn away from destroying their community. His speech was heart breaking and inspirational. If you do nothing today, spend a few minutes listening to his message. He emotionally outlines a blueprint for action. It gave me hope. I need a plan. I need a productive course other than sharing memes and posts. How can I help?
Last night, I prayed for bravery. With the current state of the world, it's a prayer I've made many times of late - "Lord make me brave enough to handle whatever's coming my way." Now I'm asking God to make me brave enough to not not wait for it to come, but to be an ally for change.
A good place to start: Minnesota Freedom Fund is a coalition geared toward ending unnecessary pre-trial incarceration of the poor and marginalized.
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