Friday, June 5, 2020

Musings in a Time of Crisis XXVI

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
until it comes.
~ "Ella's Song" by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon


My email has filled and refilled with messages from various publications, nonprofits, and other organizations and companies, all stating, in white type against black background, that  they stand with protesters to demand justice and are donating money, sometimes huge sums of money, to various race-related causes or foundations because #Black Lives Matter.

Although these actions can be regarded as good things to do, are they meaningful? Because I want to ask, What else? 

Where were you all before George Floyd's murder? African Americans have been suffering at our white hands for hundreds of years. We can trace our racism as far back as the first person chained in the lower hold of a boat and brought to America and enslaved and as recently as George Floyd's killing-by-cop.

In our modern and contemporary history, we who are not black have dishonored Black Americans' lives and deaths by remaining silent, and therefore complicit; by sending bigots to represent us in our local, state, and federal legislative bodies; by not allowing home-buying in our white neighborhoods; by denying the most basic health care and equal access to the opportunities and privileges we enjoy; by failing to give largely minority school districts the funds needed to educate, and relegating those who make it through the educational system to the most lowly of occupations; by joining facilities that restrict membership; by flying a Confederate flag in the yard or in the window of a pick-up truck; by dressing in blackface for a Halloween party; by refusing to drink from the same water fountain. . . this list is long and heartbreaking.

Perhaps our gravest sin is to have failed and continue to fail to see this minority population (and every other in the United States) as human beings every bit as worthy of and entitled to respect and kindness and opportunity and hope as we whites not just expect but demand for ourselves.

So, I want to ask those flooding my email: What else? Because symbolic or token gestures are not enough. They never were; they never will be.

Nor will donations of money make racism go away.


What is the first thing you think when you see an African American? What's the first feeling you experience? What's the story behind that kind of thinking or feeling? Who taught you to think or feel like that?

What does the word "justice" mean to you? "Freedom"? How do you define "fair treatment" and "equal opportunity"? Or are those just sound-good words for your public relations announcements?

What specific actions do you pledge to take when your white CEO commits an EEO violation? Or your HR director turns a cheek to managers' failure to meet diversity objectives? 

What are you going to do in the communities where you're based to ensure the history we teach our children includes the true stories of our crimes and African Americans' many accomplishments? Will you send your children to the same public schools that black children attend? 

Which of you in fact will "stand with" Black Americans and link arms and march the next time a black man out for a run is stalked, beaten up, or killed by white supremacists? What are you going to do to help ensure every Black American has the right to vote? Or prevent a political party from killing legislation to right our wrongs against? Or help rid this nation of food and housing insecurity? Are you going to stop supporting political campaigns that keep in office white men and women who take an oath to uphold our Constitution but are owned by lobbyists and do their bidding, no matter that bidding wrongly discriminates? 

Will you invite your African American neighbors to dinner, or allow your child to have a playdate with his or her black peers?

Whose story are you willing to listen to and defend if one is black and the other white?

Will you support and engage in a national, state, or local race-reconciliation initiative to acknowledge publicly our racism so that all of us, together and united, can begin to heal and transform our society and culture?

The list of questions is as long as our history of abuse and its denial.

If all you are going to do is make your donations and return to your "normal," you are and will remain part of the problem of racism in our country. Maintaining status quo is untenable.

Examine yourself and your own values and morals, especially if you profess to be Christian. Commit to the will to specific change by take specific actions; don't just open your purse and then expect someone else to correct the problem. 

Because we whites, all of us, are the problem, and it's time for meaningful conversation and meaningful action, and meaningful and tangible results. It's time we allowed those whom we have judged or abused or held back, whose rights we've sworn to uphold, and whose justice we are demanding in all those emails to judge and hold us accountable.  

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