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20 emails or more a day... but what's missing?

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

This is not a resources post.

This is one of those blogs where I write about what I'm thinking. Turn away now if you're hoping for the good stuff.

I've gotten emails from professional organizations to food chains.

Black Lives Matter.

Condemning racism.

Hell, even the NFL said they were wrong. Of course, Goodell didn't mention Colin Kaepernick by name or capitalize the B in Black. So I count that as a non-apology, like when my kids scream "sorry" at the top of their lungs at each other while stomping their feet. I'm feeling the love.

But something's been missing.

Condemning racism is too soft. Statements need to acknowledge the damage of whiteness. The destruction caused by white rage. The harm caused by white supremacy and anti-blackness.

Those are the words I want to hear. Call out the whiteness. Centralize the cause of this broken system on whiteness- that's where it is, that's the cause. Racism, yes, implies that, but I think we need to use the word white... be clear. My white ancestors fu*!@d this up. Yours. Mine. Ours. And white people today are perpetuating it. It didn't end with our ancestors. We are the cause. We need to fix it. We need to take accountability and fix it.

Get over the guilt, get over defensive crouch, the "it wasn't me". I know that. You're not 400 years old and neither am I. Be we are living in a system that is built on their work, their choices, their rage, their anti-blackness, and everything we do, every privilege or advantage we have is a direct result of that. Come to grips with that reality because it is true whether or not you want to believe it. The earth is not flat just because you want it to be, it is round (science nerds, now is not the time to get into a detailed argument with me on this one, and by science nerds, I mean my soon to be 11 year old son) and white people now is not the time to get defensive about "my family just immigrated", "or we didn't own slaves". Mine did too (dad's side, Polish, Mom/Grandma's side, Irish), and mine didn't either (Mom/Grandpa's side).

Guess what. Whiteness is the problem, and so my whiteness is still part of the problem, therefore it is my responsibility to help fix it. It's systemic. I don't recall a family tree being traced before the murders of George, Breonna, Ahmaud, Freddie, Philando, Alton, Tamir, or Travyon.

For so many, Katrina is still a fresh example, and so I offer a trigger warning, and apologize if this example is one that brings discomfort. But to me, it is a pretty clear example: the US Corps of Engineers didn't say, "sorry, we're not the ones who built the levees, that happened by different engineers, before we were born, you fix them." They fixed the damn levees. (I'm not going to get into discussions of timing, upkeep, etc.... just... in the end... they fixed the broken system.)

That's issue 1, Racism is not the cause, it is bigger than that. White Supremacy. Anti-Blackness. Expand the Vocabulary in these Statements.

I can't remember when, maybe 4 years ago, my eyes were opened to the difference between "not a racist" and "anti-racism". I am constantly on this journey y'all. I don't profess to be an expert. I commit to educating myself. To being, now, better than I was. To knowing that tomorrow, I will know more than I do today. I commit myself to educating my children, my students, and as many others as I come across, in whatever platform that may be (hello, blog). But I know that I'm not always right, and I know that I'll screw up, and when I do, I commit to taking accountability, making amends, and doing a hell of a lot better the next day. I wish I was better than that. I have colleagues that I am amazed at how they are able to look at documents, for example, and point out 3 different issues, where I found 1 (Ben, if you're reading this, I'm looking at you). One day- I'll grow to that level, and aspire to the next.

My question to you: What words from the statements that have been released did you want to hear? what was missing? Racism, while true, is too simplistic, too overused an explanation.

Issue 2: Actions not Words

In addition to the "what really is the cause" piece missing from the solidarity posts, the second aspect I see missing is actions. There's statements of beliefs and solidarity, and.... what next? Actions not words. What are you going to do? Those with actions are often vague... we will take action! How?

It could be that they're not sure how... As a company, they're not sure what steps they should take. The resources I shared on the previous blog post are intended to help.

What actions can we take as parents? I saw this chart online (credit on the chart, @curious.parenting) and it makes a great distinction between inclusivity and antiracism.

With Actions come Boundaries (New Addition)

While I am encouraging action, please note that I am not encouraging anyone to stand up and grab the microphone and a candlelight vigil and take over on your first day as a newly minted anti-racist activist! I'll be sharing a very thoughtful and eloquently worded thread from the Twitter on my follow up post about this...(sometimes, other people just say it best!)

Issue 3: Accountability

The last thing I felt was missing from most of the statements was accountability. These are just statements that were made and will likely be forgotten in a week or two. Who is holding these organizations to the statements? Who is ensuring they stick to their beliefs, or their commitments, if they made any? Who do we (and by we, I'm talking primarily to white Americans) have to keep us accountable as we work on ourselves as anti-racists, on antiracism as a movement, on confronting whiteness and white supremacy, on challenging anti-blackness in our policies and our actions.

One of my biggest concerns is that what we see and hear about is only a tiny fraction of the events that are occurring. The other day, I was having a conversation with a good friend and we were discussing this- he said, oh absolutely, we are only hearing about what is caught on tape, what there is footage of... We discussed how many incidents are swept under the rug, hidden from the eyes of the country, from the protestors, covered up by paperwork, by rural roads, by lack of witnesses. Later I reflected...and questioned is it a lack of witnesses or is it "w(h)itnesses" that turn the other way.

When many of us do cultural responsive and proficiency trainings, we use the image of the cultural iceberg, that only a part of culture is what we see on the surface, that there is so much more to culture than what is immediately seen. After my friend and I had this discussion, the next day, I came across this image shared on the Twitter.

I immediately sent it to my friend; he responded "that about sums it up." Yep.


And so (drumroll...)

I propose that we, as educators, as those doing the work, and bringing others on board to do the work, as anyone who wants to join with clear understanding and belief in antiracism, anti-blackness, and confronting white supremacy ... keep each other accountable.

Edited to Add:

And doing the work- that's hard y'all! (And that's a whole 'nother post!) I've been struggling with the surge of book sales. I'm loving it, but I'm terrified that we'll have educated complacent masses. #ActionsNotWords. Or the book club version, #IllTakeMyBookClubWithASideOfActivismPlease

I like this Ally Resource Guide because it's not a list of books, it is a series actions.

I'm not sure if it needs to be a platform (website or FB group), or work through the twitter through hashtags. So far I've been using the hashtags #ActionsNotWords and #DayAfterBlackout (though I changed Day to Days). Below is one of my earlier tweets

I commit to speak out against #WhiteSupremacy, confront the #WhiteRage that is stomping out #BlackJoy, and to light a fire under people to fix the system that is breaking this country and lynching its citizens. What do you commit to? #ActionsNotWords#RacismIsTheCause#DayAfterBlackout

(I did have #RacismIsTheCause as a hashtag because of "the cause of the protests is George Floyd's death" commentary, though it's contrary to what I'm saying now!)

I was also thinking of something more specific to this purpose (accountability) like #AccountabilityinAntiracismActivism (that's long) #AntiracismAccountability or a multiple one like #ICommit #Accountability #AntiRacism

Please, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Stay tuned for "Reflections on What's Missing" where I share some thoughts and feelings from the Twitter to this blog post, and "Letters to my Students" where I share some of my responses to new teachers (within the first 3 years of their careers) on an optional discussion board from a summer class, in which they were given the opportunity to express thoughts, feelings, or ask questions about "anything going on right now".



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