Last week, I had a one on one interaction with a client who wanted to share his racist views with me and expected me to share them back. This was at work where I meet and work with a broad range of the public, so not entirely surprising. He started out making cracks about the names of Black people and then tried to include me in his complaints. I encouraged him to accept the world as it is, then went to my manager and demanded that he be moved from my desk. He was. I was spitting mad and let everyone know it.
This was last week right around when the Tulsa and Charlotte killings had occurred. In addition, there had been some hateful, racist graffiti at Eastern Michigan University, right in my back yard. A terrible week, and one to drive home that police killings of black people are at a horrible pace, that overt racism is increasing in our country, and that we are going to have to make some choices about what type of country we want to live in.
I am sickened and ashamed of our nation’s police killing of black people. I am disgusted by the race baiting and anti Hispanic, Black, Muslim, Women, and Disabled people that Trump has engaged in. I see the not-surprising increase in white supremacist groups, in racial violence in the news, emboldened people to say inappropriate things to me in a public setting. All these trends are frightening and appall me.
My household is talking daily about this. Lisa and I are reading books and news about violence towards black people. We are reaching out to our black friends. We are talking and challenging ourselves to be more aware, to care more, to contribute more, to effect change where we can. It is not enough. I know that. We haven’t shown up yet. I think many of our white friends haven’t.
This article is a great discussion about why and how that is happening. White people are basically afraid to show up, to do or say something wrong, to let Black people be the leaders. And that is exactly what we White People have to do. Maybe we feel afraid of being in the minority, or are so used to being in charge that letting black people be leaders is outside our comfort zone. Maybe we just are overwhelmed and don’t feel like we can make a difference.
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), the group discussed in that article is a great model for how to do just that, how to show up. The examples they give are brilliant and demonstrate ways that effective support can happen. As a community organizer, I loved what I read here. Great examples that fit our times and this pervasive problem.
The many protests, rallies, vigils, and other gatherings are a great opportunity for us to step up and put our Selves in the process. Reposting articles and memes via social media is important. But let’s be real, we are only talking to our supportive circle with those. Social media algorithms limit the ability for that to truly have an effect in changing hearts and minds.
I am the presumptive next city council representative for our ward and will take office in November. Basically, I want to find out what I can do about racism as an elected official. And as I learn what I can do, I plan on doing it. I hope to be part of positive change, that is always my goal with community work. I want to do what I can to change our culture away from this deeply rooted problem and the recent ways it is resurfacing.