Facing our History in the Present
Growing up in Louisville, KY as a young, full-throttled activist, anti-racist work threaded itself through the fabric of my life. I spent much of my time protesting, organizing, publishing, and discussing power and oppression. And yet, even with decades of probing my own racism and systemic oppression, I continue to discover that this is a process of waking up only to fall asleep once again.
The video showing the brutal lynching of George Floyd woke me up.
Combating racism and white supremacy requires ongoing work, in our interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, and larger systems.
Back in my day, we ran around with camcorders trying to capture police brutality for Copwatch. Now, the prevalence of smartphone cameras gives us all the ability to document and share police brutality. Yet we have seen these videos, and they have failed to catalyze the necessary response.
My hometown continues to fight for justice in the police killing of Breonna Taylor, and now David McAtee. Being able to see these events with our own eyes has asserted a new clarity, cutting through the bypassing of white supremacist avoidance and denial. Many similar atrocities have occurred, with or without witness, and we have not managed to respond with change.
Sherilynn Ifill, president of the NAACP Defense Fund, says it well in this interview, that this video had such profound effect, because the extermination of George Floyd’s life took so long, and was very deliberate. The officer shows no fear of being seen; he looks directly at the camera, and continues. He demonstrated the glaring systemic racism embedded in our society – “a system of actors, and those who are complicit with those actors.”
This video provided a snapshot of America, and all the ways that we have been complicit in not disrupting an oppressive system.
What I Believe
I have given myself some time before writing this statement, as I wanted to feel certain that: a.) my voice needed to be heard, and b.) that I would be speaking from the right motivation. I do not wish to prove myself an anti-racist, nor to excuse myself as a “good white person.”
I do want to be clear that I believe Black lives matter, and that I commit to ongoing work of dismantling of white supremacy in myself and my communities.
I am also clear that this struggle has been going on for a long time, and will continue far beyond this moment.
White people have the option of ignoring racial justice work, yet we do so at our peril. We live in our full humanity when we seek justice and equality for all. We live in right relationship when we seek to give up unearned privileges, in the many ways that we receive them. This requires ongoing vigilance and a willingness to face the truth, with fierce and loving compassion.
What I am Doing
Since these most recent events, I have been donating to funds, protesting in the streets, reading, and listening to Black leaders and teachers. I am happy to share resources if you’re curious about where to start.
I have also been donating monthly since I began my therapy practice to the Trans Justice Funding Project, which is a Black, Brown, and Indiginous-led organization. They prioritize moving resources across the country to Black trans groups and organizations, while centering their leadership and experience.
I believe it’s important to give to groups that allow leaders in their own communities to determine how funds are used, rather than donors deciding from an outsider position of privilege. I give to TJFP because I trust the leadership of trans people organizing around their experiences with racism, economic injustice, transmisogyny, ableism, immigration, incarceration, and other intersecting forms of oppression. Every penny they raise goes to grantees with no restrictions and no strings attached.
Talking Through the Guilt, Shame, and Blame
Talking about racism and white supremacy can feel very hard. Guilt, shame, and blame are slippery obstacles to conversation. I want you to know that I am here for it! I am working these places in myself, and I expect to “get it wrong,” and keep learning. Let’s take risks and air it out, knowing that we will make mistakes. This is how we move it through – by talking about it, and growing beyond the binary of being simply good or bad, racist or anti-racist.
I am currently reading Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, which is a great place to begin reflecting and discussing.
Let’s talk about it, and let’s take action.