Where to Begin in a World Aflame? At the Beginning.
Jun 1, 2020
It would be easy for me to post a pretty graphic about the importance of being a good ally and go about business as usual. But I can’t. Not today. There is no Instagram slide that could ever be enough for today.
Confronting racism meant confronting myself and my actions first.
How many times did I stand in a group of people — at a fundraiser, at a political event, at a dinner party — squirming uncomfortably, listening as a fellow guest said something vaguely or overtly racist?
How many times did I glance furtively at the other attendees, taking comfort in a shared eyeroll or a speedy change of topic or a reason to exit the conversation quietly?
How many times was I blinded by my own casual prejudices and didn’t even notice the bigotry to start with?
How many times did I stand up?
How many times did I say what my conscience was yelling at me?
I chose my comfort. I chose job security. I chose not to be labeled as “that girl” or called a “RINO.” I chose not to embarrass the other person — the older one, from a different time, who was just ignorant, part of a culture that was dying off. I chose all the reasons that let me stay silent and unnoticed.
I chose wrong.
My silence created a safe space for racism to flourish. And flourish it has.
We live in a nation where skin color grants me privileges I did not earn, and bestows upon people of color daily injustices they spend a lifetime trying to overcome. Where white Americans are celebrated for just being willing to talk about racism, and Americans of color never get a break from a fight for their very lives, a fight that they learned from their ancestors and will likely pass on to their children.
It shouldn’t take a sea of flaming Tiki torches or the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, James Byrd and Atatiana Jefferson to get us to realize that we’re not doing enough to be anti-racist.
I’ve been actively trying to be a better ally since Philando Castile was killed. I realized that day that what I felt in my heart and the conversations I was having with friends and family weren’t enough. I could no longer ignore the fact that I was failing to stand up when it was difficult, when it mattered, and that my silence had consequences.
I haven’t talked much about this topic on the blog/social media because: 1) I’m still learning how to publicly discuss race without sounding like I’m asking for a prize just for doing what I should have been doing the whole time; and 2) There are people doing incredible work on racial justice (some of whom read this blog) and I don’t feel like I deserve a platform when they’re teaching a masterclass and I’m in still in kindergarten, navigating what a deeper commitment to the anti-racist cause means as a white Republican.
But it felt very wrong to just post a pretty batik caftan with a sponsored link today and then throw up a racial equity quote on my Instagram like that was doing the work. I can talk about fashion tomorrow and every day after, but today needed to be for this.
So how do we start joining communities of color in the fight?
We use our “outside voices” more.
We teach ourselves and our children to be better allies using the plethora of resources that exist.
We join organizations like the NAACP so we can stay involved and aware even when the headlines turn elsewhere.
We say to people of color: I see you. I’m sorry for the times that I have failed. I’m committed to putting in the work — even when I don’t know where to start, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when I make mistakes, even when it feels like the fight goes on forever. And I’m going to be more visible and vocal, because you don’t get to choose not to be.