South Arlington Vigil & Call To Action June 13, 2020
I am honored to have been invited to speak at the South Arlington Vigil & Call To Action on June 13, 2020. The link includes information about the speakers, news coverage, photos, and a highlight video.
I include my remarks below, which are nearly contained in this video. Please listen to all of the voices from that event as we all have something to learn from each one of them.
— — — — — — — — — —
Please remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint. This is lifelong work. People have been working to dismantle racism since it started, and they have made progress. I know it feels too slow. But the only way to ensure that change continues to happen is to keep taking steps forward and to never stop.
This will be hard work. Dismantling racism requires acknowledging that this country was born out of deliberate and strategic white supremacy that was designed to disempower people of color and create systems of inequality. We cannot fix something unless we acknowledge that it exists. We cannot address opportunity gaps without understanding their origins and working to disrupt the systemic racism that lies beneath. There is a level of self-examination and self-awareness that white people are not doing that they must do. We have to acknowledge systemic racism and that our families have benefited from it for generations.
Find or create a community of support, of people who are also doing the work, who are also struggling, who can share their experiences and challenges, and who can lift you up when you need it and who will be lifted up by you when they need it. Many advocacy communities already exist. Some are ready to educate you, to motivate you, to validate you, to tear you down and build you back up. Some are ready to accept your volunteer time, your expertise, your passionate voice to amplify their own. All of them need you to do the self-work that comes with recognizing your privilege, your biases, and your power. All of them need you to be willing to look hard within and accept what you see and then work to change it.
White supremacy, and the systemic racism built from it, will try to thwart you at every turn. It will tell you that showing up at a protest is enough, signing an online petition is enough, sharing something on Facebook is enough. It will tell you that you are a good person, so there’s nothing you need to do. White supremacy will tell you that all you have to do is be nice to everyone, to not see color, to not make anyone (especially yourself) uncomfortable. It will tell you that the choices you make don’t harm anyone else. It will reinforce the myths about the American dream and equal opportunity. And it will be wrong about all of it.
Each one of us is breathing in racism every moment. It is in everything we see, touch, hear, experience, and learn. The system is built in a way that makes it nearly invisible to those who benefit the most from it, which is one of the reasons it has endured for so long. Be most attentive to discomfort — that feeling you’ve been taught to avoid — because it tells the truth. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re probably on the right track.
Because, here’s the thing. People of color who do this work have observed a pattern. White people join a movement or a cause, attend protests and events like this one. The short-term energy and passion is high and strong. And over time, those white allies start to walk away, start to abandon the cause, because they get too uncomfortable with the work. White privilege means that we have the ability to walk away, the choice to abandon our neighbors in this work. Being truly anti-racist means that you abandon that privilege instead, and you prove, in everything you do, that you will not walk away from this work. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.
Commit now to listening to our community members and believing them. Commit now to amplifying the voices of people of color and working with them to bring change. Commit now to following in the footsteps of anti-racist activists from all cultures, to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism piece by piece and to build something better in its place that we can all be proud of.
— — — — — — — — — —
Listen. Amplify. Follow.