What we are called to do is simple: listen. To listen is not easy, but it is simple. To listen is to make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear.
I, as a God-fearing, white woman, can not remain silent. My heart is so heavy.
I am a white woman born into privilege. I will never know how it is to be a person of color (POC). My upbringing and my life experiences have played a role in how I view the world.
In Kindergarten, nearly 30 years ago, my best friend was Eboni. She was black, I was white. Did we define our friendship by the difference in the color of our skin? No.
In second grade, I was gifted a stuffed animal by a black male classmate of mine. When I brought the stuffed animal home, I was told, “You will not date a little black boy.” The year was 1990. A lot has changed in 30 years. When I recently recounted this story with my parents, they were embarrassed and acknowledged that they are changed people.
In my early 20s, I moved from my small town in Northern California to Milwaukee, Wisconson. My hometown is comprised of 2.5% African Americans, whereas Milwaukee is comprised of 38.84% African Americans. I remember walking into one particular Walmart in Milwaukee and being surprised that as a white woman, I was the minority. This made me uncomfortable and I had to ask myself, “Why?”
In my mid 20s, I spent a year teaching English in China, then spent four months teaching in Honduras, and finally spent two years teaching in Mexico. In all three of these countries, I was the minority, but I never felt looked down upon due to the color of my skin. In all three of these countires, I met amazing people who welcomed me into their homes, shared meals with me, and talked openly to me about their culture and their country.
I am a changed person. I acknowledge that I was once ignorant, lacking in knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated and unsophisticated. Now, however, I am doing the uncomfortable work to unbury implicit bias buried deep within my subconcious mind and I’m listening.
Last year, I joined a diversity club hosted by the middle school in my school district since it helped to fufill “diversity hours” for my Master’s Degree. We read and discussed the book “White Fragility” as well as took a free race Implicit Association Test (IAT) offered by Project Implicit. When the implicit bias test came back that I had a “moderate automatic preference for White people over Black people,” I became defensive or as Robin Diangelo points out, I vented my feelings of embarrassment, guilt, shame and regret.
Instead of choosing to stay in the place of defensiveness, I sought to listen and learn more about the implicit bias residing deep within my subconscious. Implicit bias, as defined by Ohio State University, refers to “the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner”. These implicit associations in our subconscious have developed over the course of a lifetime from both direct and indirect messages. as well as what we are bombarded with daily on the news and other media sources. Is there one magic solution to correcting the implicit bias we harbor in our subconscious? No.
In the words of Robin Diangelo, “Interrupting racism takes courage and intentionality. … It is a lifelong process that is deeply compelling and transformative.” My word for 2020 is “intentional”. I seek to be intentional about how I spend my time each day. I seek to be intentional with how I use my resources.
I seek to be intentional with the words I am using, and not using, to interrupt racism.Tweet
As a mother and a teacher, both my children at home and in my classroom are watching. It is my responsibility to teach my children that “every person of every race was created by the same God in his image. Every one.” There is not one gender nor one ethnicity greater than the other. We must listen with an open heart and an open mind.
Jennifer Richeson, a Yale University social psychologist, asserts that “Unless parents actively teach kids not to be racists, they will be. [Racism] is not the product of some deep-seated, evil heart that is cultivated. It comes from the environment, the air all around us.”
I am not perfect, nor do I have all of the answers. I, however, am doing the necessary and important work of listening. We set the standards in our homes, in our churches, and in our communities. We must peacefully take the necessary steps to seek change and be better.
What are you going to do to take the necessary steps to seek change and be better? Tell me in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!