I am writing this post from my new apartment in Medellín, Colombia- the one I moved into on the day George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.
It has taken me longer than I would have liked to publish this post. I have been grappling with exactly what to say, and how to say it, for over a month. I know this will change, possibly even end, some of my relationships. That is a risk I am willing to take because Black Lives Matter.
Anyone who has had a conversation with me, or has read anything I’ve written, over the past few years, knows that I am passionate about racial justice. I have been learning, talking, writing, and posting about it for years now.
I know that a lot of what I’ve shared has helped people begin to understand white supremacy and anti-Black racism, speak up for racial justice, and begin their anti-racism journey, which is great.
But, I also know that a lot of what I’ve shared has fallen on deaf ears, and has even annoyed some people.
Until recently, I have only shared palatable bits of information, on a limited basis, to ensure I didn’t annoy the people who were ignoring me or anger the people who I was annoying.
Those days are over.
Since the murder of George Floyd, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, on May 25th 2020, I have been speaking out against white supremacy and anti-Black racism more than ever before, as have people all over the country and around the world.
I Haven’t Always Stood Up for Racial Justice
It’s very important to understand that I haven’t always stood up for racial justice. In fact, I spent the first half of my twenties completely ignoring the impact of racism, (which I could do because it doesn’t directly affect me). I have always stood up to bigotry (which is nothing to pat myself on the back for), but white supremacy, white privilege, structural racism, institutional racism, my own implicit biases, and racist American history, were things I willfully ignored, for longer than I’d like to admit.
Throughout my childhood I was subliminally taught “not to rock the boat” and that “good girls” are not opinionated or dominating. I was explicitly taught to never talk about politics and religion in “mixed company,” whatever that means. The message was loud and clear: do what you’re “supposed to do,” be agreeable, be neutral, be likable, and go with the flow.
Being a young salon owner, in Las Vegas, I quickly learned how to fit in with whoever I came in contact with. I built numerous business relationships, and several personal friendships, by muting certain parts of myself, playing up others, and blending in with my surroundings. I was a chameleon. I knew how to pick out one sliver of what someone said, that I could agree with, and make them think I completely understood and supported their point of view, whether I did or not. I willfully ignored things about myself, the people around me and the state of the world so that I never “rocked the boat.” I was just trying to survive the only way I knew how.
I had no clue that I existed in a system of oppression and that by going with the flow, I not only reaped the benefits of this system, but perpetuated its oppression.
I am very fortunate that I realized that I didn’t belong in the world I’d flowed into in my early twenties. When I first decided to leave behind the life I’d created in Las Vegas it wasn’t entirely clear to me why I didn’t belong, but I knew for certain that I had to go. Letting go made space for me to unlearn so many lies, relearn the truth, and figure out who I was and what I stood for.
This post is my commitment to showing up fully for racial justice and anti-racism, no matter how much I “rock the the boat,” by:
- admitting that I have complicitly participated in and benefited from a society founded upon white supremacy.
- admitting that I was willfully ignorant about the benefits of white privilege for the vast majority of my life.
- understanding that I do not, and cannot, fully understand the impact of racism.
- sharing the honest story of my waking up to whiteness.
- analyzing and eradicating my own implicit racial biases.
- knowing I will make mistakes, listening to constructive criticism, and making all necessary changes along the way.
- listening to, learning from and supporting Black people.
- educating myself on the true, racialized history of this country and the world, white supremacy, anti-Black racism, and how to be an anti-racist.
- keeping up with current events.
- actively participating in policy change by voting, signing petitions, and donating my time, money and any other valuable resources I can.
- amplifying Black voices.
- speaking out against bigotry, structural/ institutional/ individual racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy, wherever I see it, and at all costs.
- sharing information with my family, friends, followers and readers.
- holding myself, my friends, my family, government officials, business owners, community leaders, etc. accountable.
Agreeing to Disagree is Not an Option
Some of the people who used to silently ignore me, or be annoyed by me, when I spoke up for racial justice, have recently, tangibly, let me know that they are standing on the wrong side of history.
Other people have remained silent, but unlike before, I hear their silence loud and clear:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” –Desmond Tutu
I have had several people ask me if “we can agree to disagree.” The answer is no. Agreeing to disagree is reserved for trivial things, like whether or not you like chocolate chips in your pancakes, NOT racism.
“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” – James Baldwin.
Disagreeing about racism, and the need to be actively anti-racist, is rooted in the oppression of Black people, and other people of color, and denies all of us our humanity.
Black Lives Matter. Period.