Learning To Unlearn



I’ve been struggling for months about writing this blog, feeling pretty sure that no matter what I say or how well I say it, I’m going to turn some readers off.  I will be misunderstood. Finally, I decided I might as well go for it.  I grew sick of my own prevarications.  Now, I’m just going to say what I have to say.

For most of my life, I have had a heart for justice, particularly the mistreatment of one group by another.  And, though I knew our society needed to change regarding the treatment of minorities, I had no idea what I could do to help bring about change.  Raising my family and working to support them took most of my thought and energy for many years.  But in the last five years, the institutional racism embedded in our culture made clear to me how far we, as a nation, HAD NOT COME since I was a young girl listening to Dr. Martin Luther King on the black and white television in our small den.

The truth of his words hit me then; they still move me today.  And, sad as it makes me to say it, the dream is far from realization.

So, what can an old white lady like me do about the systemic racism I am only now discovering?

First, I can open my mind and learn from those who have first-hand experiences with racism—black writers.  Online, there are many articles about how white people can become allies in the fight to end discrimination.If you type in ‘what white people can do to combat racism,’ you will find a plethora of helpful articles.  I will list some at the end of this blog.  There are also books and magazines, as well as organizations like NAACP the Southern Poverty Law Center, to explain what white privilege means.  Here is one list of resources: http://bmoreantiracist.org/resources/white-privilege/.

The next thing I can do is expect to be made uncomfortable as I learn and deepen my understanding of how the racism that is alive and well in our culture affects people of color EVERY DAY.  As I mentioned earlier, there have been years in my life when I did not give racism a second thought.  I was oblivious.  That’s because I’m white…that’s exactly what white privilege is—I don’t HAVE to think about racism because it does not have impact on me.  I have now come to believe that by remaining blissfully ignorant about what’s going on ‘out there,’ I am complicit in continuing racism.  I must join with others to make real change.  One way to do that is to begin to talk about how movies, television, newspapers, even language itself, can perpetuate stereotypes and discrimination.  And, even though I do not want to confront my own racism, (I would rather believe I am a good person, a fair person, one untouched by racism) I must accept that, as a member of American society in 2017, I have racist thoughts and often unconscious prejudices.  It’s up to me to ferret these out and ban them from my soul.  It is an ongoing process, one which I will continue until my last breath.  I call it pulling weeds from my heart.

Another action I can take is to learn new language.  For example, I kept reading about ‘micro-aggression.’  I had no idea what that was.  So I looked it up and discovered that the way we speak to and about a person can diminish that person, even though such diminishment might be unintentional.  I’m a word person.  I believe now, more than ever, words matter.  If you want a quick overview, check it here: http://sph.umn.edu/site/docs/hewq/microaggressions.pdf

I intend to keep learning about what I can do, personally, to combat racism.  In the current cultural climate, it’s incredibly important to stand with those who may become victims of hate crimes or other abuse.  So, in my imperfect, clumsy way, I’m trying to make a difference.  I hope you will join the conversation and together, we can work towards the DREAM.










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