I want to start this post by humbly saying that I have not been the ally I want to be to the Black community, and this is not a “learn from me” post. Rather, this is a “let’s do better together” post. We white moms, particularly in the suburbs, can easily find ourselves surrounded by people much like ourselves, who share similar life experiences regarding race and who thus have similar views on the matter.
I have taken baby steps on the journey to understanding systemic racism and my white privilege, and much of the awareness I have gained in recent years came from a wonderful Facebook group I’ve been part of called Be the Bridge. The organization was started by an amazing woman named LaTasha Morrison, and I have no doubt many, many other people would say she has been instrumental in their growing awareness of racism and desire for racial reconciliation as well. One thing I appreciate so much about this group is the requirement that new members remain silent observers for a period of three months. This gives people an opportunity to listen and take in the pain expressed by people of color. It is a safe place for those who have been hurt to grieve and process and gain support. It truly is a gift to observe and learn from those who vulnerably share in this space. I was introduced to many great resources through this group, and it was here that I truly began to understand how “white” my entire life experience has been and the extent to which my life has been shaped by my white privilege.
In the year 2020, nearly all of us would say that racism is wrong and people of all colors should be treated equally. We know we are supposed to love one another, and most of us are quick to say that we are NOT racist. We are kind to our Black friends and to our co-workers who are different from us. However, there is so much more to racism than most of us white people understand — it is not all about our interactions with people of color. It is about the position of power we as a race hold over those of other races. We live in a society that was structured to keep power in the hands of white people. That is where our “white privilege” comes in. We have had the privilege of not thinking about racism a whole lot during our lives and ignorantly thinking it was a thing of the past.
The problem of racism has been elevated to crisis-level with the recent senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. While it has always been a crisis for anyone who has black or brown skin, it seems that many white people are finally waking up to the dire situation after seeing two of these horrifying murders with our own eyes.
As we are confronted with the reality and severity of the injustice that people of color are subject to, we find ourselves wondering how we are in this place as a nation. The eyes of many white people are finally being opened to the truth that freedom (from death, from fear) and equality (in opportunity, in healthcare, in the legal system) do not exist for black people and white people in the same way.
If you have been following along with the events and reading articles and social media posts expressing outrage over these lives lost and over racial injustice, you are probably moved to want to join the fight against racism. Something should be stirring in all our hearts–particularly if we believe all people are created in the image of God.
I want to share with you some of the small steps we white moms need to take when beginning this journey of understanding race relations and fighting for racial equity. (Again, I am working on these, too.)
We have to learn to be good listeners. Genuine listeners. Loving listeners. We must hear what people of color tell us about their lived experiences and not be so quick to defend ourselves when confronted with the uncomfortable reality that we are participants in the system that keeps people of color in a state of oppression. We do not need to explain away the hurt they experience when being judged by the color of their skin. We do not get to decide how other people feel. Let us listen and respond with compassion.
In trying to understand race better, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves. We need to invest in our own learning through books, articles, podcasts, documentaries, etc. rather than asking people of color to explain the problem to us. There is so much history to learn, and the information is available in abundance. Before engaging in conversations with those whose pain we are just beginning to recognize, we need some base-level understanding of what is causing the suffering.
A great way to begin broadening our understanding is to let in the voices of those whose perspectives are different from our own. We can diversify our social media feeds and take time to hear what people of color are saying. Their words are raw and emotional because they are tired and hurting . . . traumatized.
In this learning process, we begin to see our natural biases. We all have them. We all make judgments about people based on appearances, and we have to humble ourselves and unlearn some of these habits if we truly want to call ourselves anti-racist. One of the most humbling aspects of this journey for me has been recognizing the defensiveness that rises up in me at different times that lets me know that I do have biases that I need to fully identify and let go of because I am wrong.
Once we identify our biases, we have to willfully let them go. It can be hard to overcome thoughts that are ingrained in our minds, teachings we’ve received all our lives. But we must remind ourselves of the truths we re-learn in order to value all humanity.
What do you think of when you hear this word? It’s not a word we use often to express our sadness, but it connotes a deep feeling of sorrow. Racism has harmed so many people in our country — every aspect of life for those in the Black community is touched by racism. We should mourn with them when we understand the experiences they have had in which they have been made to feel insignificant and out of place. When they express fear for their lives and for their loved ones, we should be broken-hearted.
Before we can contribute to anti-racism work in a meaningful way, we have to take time to lament the history of slavery and oppression that has brought us to this place.
We have to find ways to put our learning into action and show the love we proclaim for our fellow humans. Love is action, and if we take in information but are never compelled by it to act, we are not loving well at all. There is no limit to the number of ways we can show love to the Black community and to others who are different from us. Expressions of support and encouragement to those in our own circles are obviously needed. We can also support Black-owned businesses and donate money to organizations that take an active stance against racism, such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Equal Justice Initiative.
We must also lead our families in understanding racism and celebrating diversity. We have to talk to our kids about differences and serve as examples if we want them to embrace other cultures and other skin tones. If we shy away from these conversations, we leave them to draw their own conclusions about race. We can expose our kids to diversity in our own homes through books and television shows and baby dolls with beautiful brown skin. We need to take our families to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and other places of historical significance. Let’s make it part of our family culture that we learn together and we value the colorful world we are blessed to live in.
These are some ways we can get started on this journey, and I expect as we uncover truth and it takes root in our hearts, a flame for justice will begin to flicker. We will be brought low with humility along the way, but it is beautiful to think that we will rise even stronger with our brothers and sisters of every color.
I am still in the beginning stages of becoming a true ally to the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our country, but I do know this: Racism is not a battle for people of color to fight alone. We white moms must take up the fight for our brothers and sisters and teach our kids to do the same.