[This is part of my White Folks Facing Race series, originally written on December 6, 2017 to an email group created for community members in the Washington, DC area.]
Happy December! Before I get into updates for the week, I’d like to share my thinking about the goals and purpose of our group with all of you as they have evolved a bit since our first meeting in August. We have also gained quite a few members, so I’d like to be clear about our group’s purpose and goals for everyone’s benefit as we head into the new year.
I gathered the group originally to encourage others in my community to engage with their privilege and to examine their own role in perpetuating systemic racism. I have been committed to struggling with these things within myself and I hoped that others were doing the same and that we could support each other through that process and encourage others to join us. I am happily convinced now that many, many people in our community are doing this and are already engaged in activism and work that addresses racial and economic inequalities in our community.
Therefore, our group will still serve its original goal and I would like to broaden its scope. I would like our group to become a strong community/coalition of dedicated individuals working to resolve racial and economic injustices in our communities in many different ways. This means finding areas in which we can each leverage our privilege to promote change. This means communicating with each other through the group about events, activities, petitions, meetings, etc. so we can support each others’ efforts. Through all of this, our focus will be to listen, to amplify, and to follow members of our community who are most affected by inequities and injustice. Through our actions, we must prove that their voices, their experiences, and their lives matter.
For example, if we hear from our members/community that police discrimination is a problem for POC communities in our county, then we can address that issue by communicating with the County, communicating with our schools regarding SROs, communicating with POC communities about alternatives to calling the police, etc. Wherever you have privilege/leverage, you could use it to address this issue however it overlaps with your expertise/connections/abilities. All of these issues are interconnected, and our goal is to create a coalition within our community to address them from as many angles as possible. Do not underestimate the fact that if you are white, you have a louder voice than POC saying the same words — that is a function of your privilege and that is where you have leverage to amplify their voices.
With that in mind, I have created a survey to gather information from our group about interest and availability for the coming year. The more information you can provide, the better I’ll be able to put together content that will be relevant for as many of our group members as possible. In terms of future events, I’m already working to schedule some speakers for the group as well as more small group discussion meetings. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for speakers or discussion topics.
Thanks to those who were able to come to our small discussion group last week. We had a productive conversation about local school districts and some of the similar challenges in both areas. We also talked about the middle school boundaries, enough that I was able to attend the School Board meeting and speak about the fact that the proposed middle school boundaries as they stand make the demographic balance in the county worse.
A slightly revised version of the middle school boundary map was presented at that meeting. One of the board members also stated at the meeting that he would be working on an alternative version of the boundary changes over the weekend, but I haven’t seen anything about that yet. I’m hoping more information will be available soon. The Board votes at the next meeting, which may be a very sedate meeting or might be quite raucous depending on what happens between now and then. It was clear to me at the meeting that the Board listens to community members, so please email or otherwise contact the Board through their website. Despite the fact that the Superintendent has made his recommendation, everything is still potentially on the table. This is not over!
One of our members let me know that the County Civic Federation’s Legislative Committee has written a resolution on Criminal Justice Reform. Please contact your neighborhood’s civic association representative to support this resolution.
A community member recently started a new nonprofit dedicated to putting books in the hands of young children, 1 in 5 of whom in our community do not own any books. The organization is called Read Early and Daily (R.E.A.D.) and you can learn more here.
Thank you for reading and for being a part of this movement!