It’s been a heavy week in the not-so-United States. In Minneapolis, George Floyd was brutally murdered by an on-duty police officer in broad daylight as he plead for his life, saying “I can’t breathe.”
This is only the latest in so many killings of unarmed Black men by police officers in the U.S., a tremendous problem that has a deep-seated history. Race in the U.S. is complex and racial tension continues to run high.
I stand for FREEDOM. I stand for the liberation of all people. If people ask me my mission or my WHY, in a word, it is “freedom,” for all.
“No one is Free, until we ALL are Free,” Martin Luther King said.
We are only as healthy as a nation–or as a world, as our most marginalized, vulnerable citizens. To create true freedom is to lift up those who are the most oppressed.
Right now a lot of people need support and we know that many are vulnerable.
Black men are vulnerable in this country in a way I never will be.
Women are vulnerable in ways men are not.
Queer folks are vulnerable in ways heterosexual folks are not.
Disabled people are tremendously vulnerable in so many ways that often go unrecognized.
Transgender women of color are at great risk every single day of losing their lives because of who they are.
This is why intersectional feminism is so important–we get to have important, nuanced conversations about our vulnerabilities, our unearned benefits and privileges, oppression and power.
At Fire Woman Retreat we spoke about the critical importance of addressing both personal and collective power. We cannot do just one–both must be addressed or we will never be free.
I’m participating in a group program right now where we are having some heated discussion about race. What I see is how many people either go mute and say nothing, or get very upset because they are scared they will get it wrong and don’t know what to do.
The term “white fragility” was coined because often times white people get extremely upset when race is brought up and they feel like they did something wrong, or it’s out of their control. They have a strong emotional reaction, sometimes hysterical (please see video of Amy Cooper), or some other narrative that centers their feelings, taking the conversation away from people of color or the people who have been harmed. I’ve been watching that happen, and it can be exhausting and even dehumanizing, especially for people of color.
Why am I talking about this? Several reasons.
We get to center Black people right now.
We need to have the difficult conversations.
We need to be willing to step into the fire and say the hard thing or talk about the thing people don’t really want to talk about.
We need to be willing to try our best and get it wrong.
We need to be able to listen to the things we don’t want to hear.
As a white person with a lot of privilege who believes in freedom above all else, I have a duty to raise these issues. We get to talk about sexuality, gender, race, ability and all the things that support or impede our liberation.
We also get to be powerful, insightful and provocative leaders if we have a platform or are building one. How we use our platform is important. I take that seriously.
We get to work on our own healing and the healing of all.
We get to get out of our own silos of experience and listen to those we are not used to hearing from, especially people of color, without all the tears and cries of “I’m not a racist.”
Let’s listen more and stop defending.
We get to recognize that women like Amy Cooper, who actually called the cops and lied to them that a black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), was threatening her are doing something very dangerous and deeply manipulative.
This was a very deliberate attempt to use the very old and harmful trope that white women are unsafe when Black men are around, and the authorities will always listen to the white woman. She put his life at risk by doing so.
Black men used to get lynched for allegedly looking at a white woman. She did this on the same day as this modern day lynching of George Floyd.
Sexuality, gender and race are interconnected in a web of great magnitude. And love. Love is at the heart of it all. James Baldwin wrote:
“White people…have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”
Let that deep truth sink in. If we truly had love for ourselves we would not need to extend our hate to others.
These issues are complex. They need a voice. They require thoughtfulness and leadership. If you are a leader, be willing to have the hard conversations in your work. This isn’t business as usual. There is no way I could say nothing of this to you this week. It’s painful and it’s deeply important. It hurts.
If you have a family, have the conversations with them. Talk to your kids about these issues. We get to raise a new generation of conscious kids. (For support in this, follow @theconsciouskid on Instagram…it’s incredible.)
If you are looking to build your work, create curricula, trainings, workshops and other offerings to help improve our world and support others, consider working with me this summer. Let’s set you up to amplify your work out to the people who need it.
Because we need powerful voices speaking up right now. Don’t just avoid being a problem, be an actual part of the solution.
Here are 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Please do some this week.