I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine today! I have quite a few wonderful resources that many of you have been sharing with me — thank you! However, I’m focusing on an amazing resource this week, a true gift. This might be the most important thing you can internalize this year.
I had the immense privilege to be able to attend the “Activist Listening Session” last Friday evening, hosted by four local activists of color. They were billed as responding to the Northam situation, but what actually occurred was SO much better. And they recorded it! It was truly a gift. Here’s the link (Click on Archives, the session is called “Activist Listening Session on Race”, which can be viewed or downloaded).
Please donate to the activists through SURJ-NoVa — this is heavy, vulnerable work and they deserve to be compensated accordingly. Go to www.surjnova.org and pay via PayPal, then email firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know your name and amount and that you want the donation to be designated to the activist listening session. If you share the session link with others, please pass along the donation information as well.
I really want you to watch the video for yourself (set aside 1.5 hours and make it happen, or do it in pieces), but here are some of my takeaways (and some of these may be close to what the speakers said, so I do not take personal credit for any of this except for when I’m speaking about my own reaction):
(1) White people, even the best allies, will never completely “get it” because we can never be without the privilege attached to our skin color. Rather than seeing this as a depressing reality, I found that this freed me to focus on the steps I can take every day and stop worrying about reaching some unattainable end goal. If we can accept that we might never get there, then we can ensure that we focus on every step in the right direction and keep on moving, every day.
(2) Many POC expect white people, even the best allies, to eventually abandon or betray them. History has shown this to be the trend, with very few exceptions. Prove that you are willing to do the work, even when you are feeling fragile, especially when you are feeling fragile, and center POC instead of yourself. Saying you have nothing more to learn = you’re no longer doing the work.
(3) The creation of our country was structured in a way that institutionalized advantaging some people over others — it is in everything. This means that uplifting and centering the people closest to the pain is the only way to make meaningful change. This is where we use our privilege — to Listen Amplify and Follow POC and their communities.
(4) It’s going to be uncomfortable. When you are accustomed to privilege, equality looks like oppression. When others are given a seat at the table, it feels too crowded.
(5) Do the work because it’s the right thing to do and long overdue, not because you want someone to recognize you as “not a racist” or “a good person” — this is not about approval or recognition of you. It will take practice to stop centering yourself in this work, so work at it and apologize when you make a mistake. Keep doing the work.
This information is hard to accept, hard to internalize. It may be the most unfiltered truth you have heard on this topic. Sit with it. Reach out to (white) friends, or to this group, or to me, as you reflect on your reactions to it. Wherever you are in this process, I won’t judge. This takes time and patience and work. You have been indoctrinated into this white supremacist system along with everyone else. You are not alone. Keep moving forward.
Trade fragility for strength.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.