Wednesday, I think

I just turned off the TV.  For us, the escalation of the pandemic and lockdown (still locked down, thanks for asking) went hand in hand with Charlotte’s death, and in the weeks that followed I fell into the habit of waking up in the morning and getting my coffee, and then sitting myself on the chesterfield and anxiously knitting while watching the virus rip through the world, fixating on the numbers and rates of transmission and being really anxious about it all. I thought it was making me feel better – I thought information was some measure of control over an out of control world. After a while, as the fog of grief and shock began to lift and I could think a little more clearly, I realized that the TV thing was not helping. Sure, some measure of information really made a difference, I really did need to know what was happening, but it slowly dawned on me that I have never actually gotten around to picking up PHD’s in Epidemiology and Public Health, and that I was essentially unqualified for this whole thing. I decided then to concede to people who actually have PHDs in Epidemiology and Public Health (not politics) and do what they asked me to do without questioning it too much. This flies in the face of my nature, but this is an exceptional time when my opinion or what I’ve managed to cobble together from the internet really doesn’t make me qualified to come up with my own plan.

I stayed in touch enough with the news to understand that the impact the virus was having was unequal, that I had a responsibility to protect those at greater risk than myself with my own actions in my community and to help those trying to solve the broader problems it is causing in the world. Do I know what to do about the impact this is having in developing countries where poverty is already entrenched, where public health measures aren’t possible to enact, where there aren’t health care systems in place, never mind overwhelmed ones? No – but I do know that I can look to the people experiencing that, and organizations who specialize in understanding those problems, and support them as much as I am able. For me, this took the form staying home (since I am a human alive right now with the ability to do that, and can therefore make sure I’m not part of the problem) and of supporting health organizations (like MSF) community organizations like food banks and PWA. Empowering the experts seemed better than me guessing, and I wrote my politicians and told them it was important to me that they centred the people who are most vulnerable, and that it was a path to my vote or the loss of same.

To be clear, I haven’t been able to do this every day. Some days I have only been able to knit, and cry about my little granddaughter while physically distanced from the world at large, and the big picture has gotten entirely away from me. I don’t even know for sure if the things that I’ve done have been the right things, but I know for sure that it was better than just watching TV and feeling completely helpless.

Then last week, while watching an emotionally and situationally appropriate amount of TV, Joe and I watched the news in horror and over the next few days, the TV habit was back. I’ve been glued to it, searching for understanding, trying to absorb the rage and fury, and waiting – like the pandemic, I guess – for the moment that watching enough of it gave me understanding and I knew what to do. It didn’t work, and after a few days of not knowing what to do or how to help I realized that this problem is the same as the other one. A global crisis is killing people, and just the same as with Covid-19, because I am a human alive right now, I am a part of the problem, and can be part of the solution.

At the risk of comparing a very small problem with a very large one, do I need or want Joe’s advice on whether I should rip back a piece of knitting? No Knitter, I do not, and I can tell you that the fastest way to make the problem I’m having worse and make me feel unheard, angry and disrespected is for him to give me uninformed options. Am I sure I need to rip this out? Yes. I have been knitting my whole life and I know a problem when I see it. Also, I’m experienced enough to know that other solutions haven’t worked, and I’ve tried the ones that could have worked already, and just because he can’t see what’s wrong with the knitting doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. It means he’s unqualified to know. Just pass me the ball winder and extend your help dude, it’s what I asked for, and what I know I need, because I am a damned expert.

So, a few days ago I turned off the TV (enough, not completely, I still feel like there’s a responsibility to know what is happening) and started looking for more experts. People with the lived experience that is a PHD in systemic racism. I conceded that I do not know what needs doing, and that they don’t need me and my lack of experience questioning what will work and what won’t, what’s been tried and what hasn’t.

I recommitted to hearing what I do that could make things worse. I know nobody wants to say their actions are racist, and I see that this is the moment where white people balk, – but there is simply no denying that I’m part of a system that is racist, and that the same way that a world built by men has resulted in greater suffering and death for women, a world built by white people resulted in the same for people of colour, and that means that every day I get to experience whatever hardship and suffering I encounter within a system designed by people like me to make that as easy as can be. The same way that know that even though I try to be a good person, I could give someone Covid-19 if I don’t comply with anti-Covid guidelines, I understand that I can be racist if I am not actively anti-racist.

I’ve doubled down on trying to find people who are experts (that’s people of colour, and the organizations that support them) and listening to what they say will help – what they think I can do – what actions they know will make a difference, and every day I’m trying to do some of the things on that list. (What list? You’d be surprised how easy it is to google “how can I be anti-racist.”) I’m also working (like Joe and the knitting) not to offer suggestions and judgments about how to solve a problem that I can not experience.

Like the things I’ve done around the pandemic, I don’t know if these are the right things, but I do know that it has to be better (and takes less time, ironically than just watching this on TV.) I’m just telling you because I think that if you’re a white person who’s currently feeling really terrible about every aspect of this, I want you to know that looking at it from the perspective of the experts, and doing what’s asked of us by people who know better  could actually improve things. At the very least, it’s respectful to the people with the experience to show them that you understand if they say it’s time to rip back the knitting.

105 thoughts on “Wednesday, I think

  1. We wanted to teach our children acceptance early on, so we watched The Power of One with them a few years ago. My son was so upset that people “could be so mean just because their skin is a different colour – that’s just WRONG!”, and we explained that’s what racism is, and it IS wrong. I am happy that (unlike me), their schools have always been multicultural and they have grown up with friends of different races and religions and just accept that it’s a difference, but doesn’t make a person “bad” or “good” any more than blonde hair or brown hair (I have two blonde kids and one brunette). While we can’t change the past, hopefully we can influence the future to be about humanity, not colour or race or religion.

  2. I’m reading books. Books that have been sitting in my TBR pile for way too long. Books like White Fragility and Blindspot and How to Be an Antiracist. Books that I think “I already know this,” but now I think maybe I don’t.

    • I was also going to suggest the book “White Fragility,” which I started reading and will discuss with a disparate group of women on Zoom tomorrow. So far it’s eye-opening to see how we so-called progressives are still mucking it up.

  3. It is all so overwhelming, yesterday we ran errands through the same area three times, we stopped for coffee twice at the same place…last night it was set on fire after having the windows broken. I grocery shopped this morning, the time between dropping things at the post office and picking up food and driving back home, there were groups of protestors formed and marching…personally, I don’t know how this country will recover. I pray it does. We can only do what we can do and in the end hope it was correct and enough.

    • Cheryl- This country begins to heal when you and all of us white people stop “driving through” and start joining in. If you can’t protest, donate. If you can’t donate, help another way. And no matter what- read up, educate your self, and talk to your family and friends and coworkers.

  4. As always, I appreciate your candor. Not knowing what to do is uncomfortable, but as a Caucasian woman I believe we have a responsibility to listen, learn and ASK how we can be of service. Frog this broken system and create a just one. We can do this.

    • And what I’m learning, is we don’t need to ASK how to be of service. We need to google – the answers are out there, women of colour are leading the way and have been for generations. Don’t put more work on black people, it’s on us to pick up all the teaching that is being offered. A great starting point is @rachel.cargle on instagram.
      We’re all learning!

    • Yes to what Nat said! Just a quick suggestion because I just recently learned this: it’s important that white folks (like us) identify ourselves as “white.” I’d like to leave a video here but the site flags it as spam so for more information check out the video “The Surprisingly Racist History of Caucasian” by Decoded | MTV News on Youtube.

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful comments about the murder of Mr. George Floyd. He was a member of my community, killed two blocks from my home and one block from my daughter’s home ~ at the very ‘hub’ of our low income, highly integrated neighborhood. I can only tell you how this has affected our community from the perspective of a white person who has lived here for forty years ~ with neighbors of all creeds and colors taking care of each other. I see (some) Minneapolis Police officers harassing young black boys who are obviously heading for the basketball court across the street from my house. They’re dressed in sports garb, they’re carrying at least one basketball between them, and they’re only yards from the court. They’re maybe 11 or twelve but they supposedly ‘look like’ someone who’s been sneaking around in alleys, casing homes in the area. They don’t look like that at all. They look like young black boys who are too often targeted for no apparent reason. What we currently resent, as a community, are The Tourists. Some people travel a long way to pay their respects and we appreciate that sentiment. They are appropriately somber and they move about and speak quietly and respectfully. Other people travel either from their lily white suburban McMansions where minorities are most decidedly not welcome, or they drive in from out state ~ to gawk, to use our grief as a way to pass time, since so few ‘entertainment venues’ are open. These people have a distinct appearance and persona. They’re known as ‘cake eaters’ in local parlance. They take smiling selfies against a backdrop of Mr. Floyd’s portrait, they laugh and pester members of our community about where they can get some drinks. Having said all this, there are also many good things happening. Vandals burned down miles of businesses, leaving us no place to shop for essentials. Many in our community do not own cars and now the buses don’t even run. The residents of the Twin Cities have stepped up in a big way. Bags of non-perishable groceries ~ thousands of them ~ line the boulevards in front of homes, as do mountains of diapers, wipes, menstrual products, laundry soap, and cleaning products. Grills and coolers have been brought to hundreds of front yards, members of the community feeding each other nourishing meals because we have no place to shop. My daughter and some friends have set up two websites: one to alert residents where stores are still open, what’s available at a given location, and the other website is there to direct specific donations where they’re needed. Adult diapers to the poorest of nursing homes, alcohol to some of those in our Native American community so no one will experience painful withdrawal when there’s no medical help available, condoms at Planned Parenthood locations, formula to the Islamic Center (and halal foodstuffs), Kosher food to our low income Russian Jewish community….. just everything one can think of, to be helpful. The other thing for which we are grateful is that NO ONE has dared attempted to desecrate the site where Mr. Floyd was killed. The police have stayed away. The vandals have stayed away. The city re-routed the bus route before taking the buses off the streets. Neighbors take brooms and trash bags every day, to clean the site of cigarette butts and other trash. People in our burned out areas have done the same. No merchant has been left to clean his or her property alone. Hundreds of people have shown up with cleaning supplies, sweeping entire parking lots, picking up burned food from supermarkets, sweeping the streets. So that’s a field report from the scene of the crime. Thank you again for caring about our friend. He was a really nice man.

    • Thanks for posting that.I have been so sad about what has been happening in our country so I’m glad to know that there are good people coming into your neighbor to help.

    • Omg Thank you so much for sharing…I have been wondering what it’s like there…I needed to know this information…my heart and prayers go out to everyone there…and all of us….

    • I am so sorry for you and your community’s loss. I am devastated that this has happened to you. I am grateful for the power of community and I wish you and your community healing and recovery but most of all justice.

    • Thank you. We need to hear about the good in people. We hear so much about the few bad actors and so little about neighbors helping neighbors.
      I pray that your neighborhood will emerge stronger and more united after this nightmare. And that that nation will follow your lead

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. Would you be willing to share the websites you mentioned? Perhaps some of us can send some of those needed items.

    • Thank you so much for this, Rebekah–often those of us far away from a situation never get to hear THIS side of the story when it’s happening, either because people are working to fan outrage or because it’s not sensational enough to be ‘news’.

      And yet if we are going to end up somewhere that we all want to be, where we all belong, this living-life-together, actually BEING community, so needs to happen….my heart is so encouraged to know that in so many diverse ways, your community is finding a way through, a good way, where you see and care for each other in practical efforts that really matter and make a difference…

    • Thank you for writing a report from Ground Zero. I have friends in the Twin Cities and I’ve been there a number of times. I always thought Minneapolis was a haven of liberal thought and so it was a shock to see the report of Mr. Floyd’s killing. Some reports have indicated that much of the looting and burning has been carried out by people from out of state, primarily young white males. I grieve for the city and its inhabitants. I hope today’s memorial service for Mr. Floyd will act as a catharsis for many and that everyone can remember him as you do. I also hope that Minneapolis (and the rest of the world) will take the lesson from this senseless killing that judging people on the basis of their skin colour is just wrong. Like Stephanie and many of the other commenters here I am a privileged white person and I can never put myself in a black person’s skin but I can try to make sure I don’t contribute to racism.

    • Rebekah: My husband and I read your words and thought “this is wonderful.” Not the precipitating event, of course, but your lucid and humane description of how your community has been affected and how it’s responding to a horrible situation. Your comment has meant more to us and made these events more real to us than anything else we’ve seen, read, or heard. Thank you.

    • Thank you for sharing the impact on your neighborhood and how the locals are helping each other. It always saddens me when neighborhoods are destroyed during protests as I realize how hard it will be on the neighborhood’s residents after the world moves on to to the next event.

    • Devastating beyond words. I join millions of others in grieving your neighborhood’s loss of a good man and for all that it’s been put through, that Mr. Floyd’s family is going through. Thank you for sharing your neighborhood’s love and kindness in the face of it all.

      If there’s a way to help pay for those groceries I and I know many of us would dearly love to know.

    • Rebekah, Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Minneapolis is the city of my birth and where many of my relatives live (in, admittedly, more affluent suburbs). Your description and information are incredibly valuable. If there are specific organizations to which a former resident can most help with a donation from afar please post the information.

  6. We are just finishing up Reconciliation Week here in Australia. We have a shameful record of deeply entrenched racism and our treatment of those who have been here for 60 thousand years is nothing short of disgraceful. That there are so many Indigenous people in Oz who want reconciliation, and a shared way forward, blows me away. We can only try to ensure that what is happening in the US does not become part of our story as well. We whities have so much to learn.

    • Fellow Australian here. The problem is that what is happening in the US is already part of our story. 430 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1987. Hugely disproportionate numbers of indigenous people incarcerated. We witnessed the violent assault of a young indigenous boy by a police officer in NSW just a couple of days ago. Today I read that Sydney Council are refusing to do Acknowledgements of Country. These are our problems too and they have been for a very long time. I think the point Stephanie and others are making is a really important one – it’s not enough not to be racist, we have to be actively and stridently anti-racist. And it starts with each one of us. The fact that we are not taking to the streets in vast numbers to protest the treatment of our Indigenous people shows we’re not doing enough. I know I need to do much, much better.

      • Another Aussie here. Thank you for your candor and humility, Steph. I’m an English and Literature teacher and am currently teaching a play about mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians in the 1930s with 17 year old students. The writer is Indigenous, but I am a white woman in the role of “expert” because I’m the teacher and I really struggle with that. I wonder how to get off my own platform of privilege in that situation. I’m trying, but I certainly don’t have that sorted.

      • I certainly wasn’t trying to minimise what has happened here. We are in no position to be able to tell others what to do. I live in a community with a large Indigenous population and I see and hear racism every day. Not just against Indigenous people, either, we have a large refugee and immigrant community as well, and some of the views I hear expressed I just have to respond to. I meant that I hoped our protests remain peaceful and that the division between the people and those in power doesn’t end the way it is in the US. And yes, we need to, if we’re not already, on an individual level, start calling it out.

  7. I have no words. I cannot comprehend the depth of anguish of black citizens in this horrid situation, nor can I understand how it feels to know this has been a systemic and purposeful design of the ruling class. I’ve been poor, but not black and poor. I’ve lived as a woman and resisted the exclusion and patronization that entails, but I’ve not been a black woman who has to school her children in how to keep from being killed in the streets. I can send what small funds I have to spare to organizations who are on the ground working for change. If I were 20 years younger I would be demonstrating. But I feel so lost and so filled with regret, and yet I can hope – seeing the line of white women facing down the police in front of darker faces, seeing parents and children together sitting peacefully, seeing demonstrators protecting a cop separated from his unit. The world is changing and now is the time to use all we have, all we can bring to bear, to turn away from the abuses and ignorance and love one another heart to heart.

    • You can act to become anti-racist and support orgs that are materially working to reform/defund police who kill Black people.

      There is no peace without justice, no love without equity.

      And perhaps no comfort without justice or equity.

  8. As so often, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’ve concluded that my best course of action is to educate myself, listen to those who have lived a different experience of America than I have, and support African American makers and business people in my community. And stay open to learning how else may be part of the solution. Blessings to you!

  9. Once again your ability to put into words what has been tumbling around my head for days has humbled me. Thank you. It’s been a struggle to go to work every day in the clinic and make sure what needs to happen is set in motion while knowing in other places of this country the world is burning down for others… I’ve got more for sure; feelers I can’t wrangle into sense, but I hope my reading that you have had the same thoughts that I’ve had as I turn off the news each night and strive to find some solace that I know I have the privilege to find, that there’s still Hope out there, floating to the top. Perhaps your words will help others grab a hold of some for themselves and give us a little light to get us through.

    Also, thank you Rebekah for sharing your part.

    • Thanks for working in healthcare (if i may dare to presume).

      Black people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to racist, systematic oppression like food deserts, redlining, poverty and police violence.

      These things are connected.

      Active work to become anti-racist and to support BLACK orgs working to reform/defund police is the only way forward.

      There is no more time for passive hope.

      • Yes, I work in a recognized community health center that serves our towns underserved populations. We have a very high ratio of mi origins we care for including ethnic, religious, and the homeless.

        Hope for me is not passive. Hope for me is needed to keep me at it every day. Without hope, why am I working underpaid in a very white and very rich town to make sure everyone through my door or on the telephone lines gets the care, medicine and resources they need.

        I grew up in minority heavy population. I have done much inner work to address how I see the world and I suspect I will continue to do that work until I die for I feel we are never done with it. I do it because I hope to be a better person. Better than I was last year, better than some of those I’ve witnessed abusing their privilege, and maybe as good as some others I’ve had the benefit of watching work their own hope into their daily lives.

        Just the last two days I worked with a gentleman who is fearful of going to our community testing site. Why? He’s probably an illegal migrant worker, and his fears are very very legitimate. This is the kind of thing we work with on a regular basis and I require hope to keep doing it.

        I have given money when I can to causes I feel support those with the greatest need. I have given my time and hands to those causes as well, and will continue when I have the means. Today I had the honor of participating in a protest march, despite concerns of local violence. Why? Because I hoped it would stay peaceful, I hoped it would have an impact, and it was my duty to my community to make sure my voice was added to that of others to push this change forward. My hope is not passive, and I pray yours isn’t either.

  10. I’ve been waiting for this blog post.
    I knew you would be able to put into words what so many of us are feeling.
    Thank you

  11. Very well said, as always. Thanks for putting it so perfectly.

    My father (who I loved very much) would never let us play outside at my grandma’s house because she lived in a black neighborhood. But we went out in the yard and made a snowman anyway. Two little boys with very dark skin came curiously over to play with us. We’d never seen skin like theirs. They’d never seen skin like ours. My sister and I noticed that their skin was lighter on the palms of their hands and thought it was because the snow was washing them white.

    We rubbed snow on their cheeks. They stayed black. They rubbed the backs of their hands on our cheeks. We stayed white. We shrugged and made a snowman.
    We had a lot of fun until my dad came outside. (He was raised in a different world, please don’t hate him. He changed quite a bit from that day.)

    Now my daughters are surrounded by friends of all colors. And my middle girl will always choose dolls with dark skin shades because she thinks they are the most beautiful.

    And even though I don’t count myself racist; there’s still a lot I could do to be anti-racist. Thanks again for putting it so well.

  12. Humanity will never learn, I grew up in UK in 60’s we watched and hoped things would be better, ‘when we are older we will change the world’ but it hasn’t happened, and yes we are all to blame, we turn away when the people with power take over. There will always be greed and oppression as well as racist, I like your comment ‘ am I racist because I am not active anti-racist’ Most people at our level live peaceful and respectful lives, we show our children how to behave, everyone is equal, but then I’m classed as ‘while and middle class’ so that makes me different.
    I turn the TV off, too much information, like you I look on line, take in what I can understand, live by the rules, because to me they make sense, and I want my family safe.
    It’s yet again another sad racist episode in the history of humanity, things improve slightly, but equality is our of our grasp, and we are not trying hard enough to sort the issues.

  13. Do something — more. A young black man whom I have supported with campaign donations won on Tuesday and will be serving in a small public capacity (which I think portends future civic service in larger roles). So I wrote him a letter of congratulations, telling him why I supported him in the first place.

  14. Thank you for your honesty and for reminding us to look to the experts, no matter what the situation. I am working to fully understand how I, as a white person, contribute to a racist society and how I can take action to combat it.

  15. Thanks for your care-ful and considered post. I too have been horrified by this current turn of events. I acknowledge the endemic racism that is part of Canadian society – and seek ways to be actively anti-racist. Yesterday, amid all the reporting of the riots, I read the op-ed pieces in yesterday’s Globe and Mail on the failure of our national government to produce an action plan one year after the receipt of the report of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-one-year-after-the-mmiwg-inquirys-report-were-still-waiting-for/

    The Incarceration statistics are every bit as horrifying as those for black males in America – 42% of female inmates in the Canadian prison system are indigenous.

    I’ve now decided that I need to begin by reading the report in its entirety, and then see where I can personally act on its recommendations. Along with political pressure to get our government to respond.

  16. Heather Hiscox (CBC) interviewed Pinball Clemons the other day and he said the one thing we can do is hire Black (or other marginalized minorities like First Nations). They need jobs to get out of hopelessness. You might not be able to hire someone but you can go to their community centres and teach them to knit and be a part of the larger community.

  17. When I was a kid, my parents had a mom-and-pop grocery on the corner in a residential neighborhood in Washington, DC, that was black (long ago enough that it was ‘Negro’) except for the owners of small businesses that lived above and behind their stores, like us. Supermarkets were not a thing, and most neighborhoods were served by small groceries. My sister and I went to a parochial school affiliated with our religion. Interestingly, there were several kids in the neighborhood who went to parochial school NOT of their religion, because their parents felt it would be better than the public schools. We played on the sidewalk with the kids in the neighborhood, and in the summer that extended until after the street lights came on. We were also customers of what was in the store that our dietary religious restrictions allowed – produce, canned goods, frozen vegetables, dairy, etc.

    My parents NEVER spoke disparagingly of our neighbors or customers because of their race. I learned the “N” word from one of the kids in the neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood where if you left your bike down the street, someone would put it on your porch. We played kickball in an empty lot, hopscotch on the sidewalk.

    The whole racism thing leaves me horrified and disgusted, that as a country, and to some extent a world, we haven’t grown up. We are still tribal beyond belief, and we should be ashamed. I’m in the US, and our current putative leader is no kind of leader at all, in any aspect. We are a laughingstock.

    We have friends who have been in New Zealand through coronavirus, having gone partly for work, and partly because their son went there for a college semester. They were very lucky in that regard.

  18. I am upset that a man was killed by vicious brutes. I am upset that shop owners had their livelihood destroyed. I am upset that police officers were killed by violent looters. I am upset that there are people who think any of this is ok. Note: I do not point out color. That is trivial.
    But please define systemic racism. And then clearly and concisely give me solutions that are not already being done. Then black out your Instagram page.

    • Systemic racism is the way that a disregard for the personhood of Black individuals is so completely baked into our society that you, who are clearly a good and kind person, can walk into the comments of a thoughtful, compassionate essay like this one, that challenges us to listen to the lived experiences of others, and basically insist that the problem isn’t real and that property damage (the “livelihoods” of business owners) can somehow warrant the same level of sorrowful head-shaking as the death of a human being caused by a government representative whose responsibility is to protect him. Racism is intrinsic in everything white people do; it’s not your fault that you’ve been taught to believe that it doesn’t exist, but it is your responsibility to learn and grow. Know better, do better. You want a clear, concise definition of systemic racism? Google it. Better yet, Google “what is anti-racism.” For you, I recommend starting with the book “Waking Up White” by Debby Irving. I think her journey will help you with yours.

    • Systemic racism is rooted in the belief by white people that somehow color is trivial and yet they built a society around limiting rights and freedom of people based on their color.

      It is a privilege to think color is trivial. It’s trivial to you because you don’t have to think about it. It is an absolute luxury that we have.

      If you really want to learn about it, all of the information is out there, begging for you to read it. You have to want to hear it, though.

      Obama and My Brother’s Keeper did a great town hall yesterday discussing clear steps to take in fixing systemic problems in law enforcement. You could start there at Obama.org.

    • I challenge you to watch your local news for a week. Note who is portrayed when the newscasters talk about food banks, poverty, etc.

      Read about the Bureau of Indian Affairs…and its gross mismanagement.

      Read “A Square Meal” and how, in the depths of the Depression, white folks got food and black folks had to work to get their government rations.

      Your state code (laws) probably has some great examples of discriminatiory laws still on the books (not enforceable but never removed). In Virginia, it was legal to pay ushers less than minimum wage because, when the law was written, ushers were black.

      The Homestead Act was whites only. Freed or former slaves were not eligible.

  19. I stopped watching news on TV *years* ago – the audio and visual impact are just too overwhelming. Instead, I read the NYTimes online and the local paper in print, so I can pick and choose and balance what information I am seeing. Also, no news from social media.

  20. Thank you, Stephanie, and to all of y’all who’ve commented. There are so many thoughtful suggestions and ideas.

    I live in a very small, rural, mostly white community in southwest Missouri. I was in junior high school in Memphis when Dr. King was murdered.

    Last night, I discovered that there was a peaceful protest in our little town against the murder of George Floyd and all of the countless others. There were about 30 protesters, and the police and the mayor expressed support of the protest. I will join their protest tonight. In addition, my husband and I are using our stimulus checks to support organizations that promote social justice and candidates who include social justice in their platforms.

    I have a black nephew whom I have worried about and prayed for for 40 years in ways that I didn’t have to worry or pray for my white son and white nephews.

    Thank you Stephanie, for giving us a space to have a respectful conversation on this tragedy.

  21. I never knew, the day I learned to knit, that it would make me a better person. (I admit that I did have an inkling that it might change my ideas of adequate free time and storage space, but we’re all knitters here). The wonderful people I have met through knitting have dramatically changed how I view inequality and privilege, and thus my ability to challenge inequality wherever I find it. I have much to improve on, for sure, but the fact that I even want to is because of the knitters on my life.

    Thank you, among others, for showing me the way. Thank you for your voice. Know that even while you feel you’re doing little, that people like me (maybe a lot of people like me) are doing a little more.

  22. What a brilliant way to explain it! Thanks for the insight; I’m going to use this analogy because it’s easy to remember and (I hope) for people to understand. Thanks for shining a light to help us see the path.

  23. Thank you for using your voice and your resources in this way. I hope this gives us all the push to do the same.

  24. I am the white mother of black sons. I thought that I was not racist until i learned to see the world through their eyes.

    I still remember when I realized that my cute little boys had become threats. When I had to explain to them how to deal with police (and thank God I had Black friends to help coach me through it.). When they got their drivers’ licenses and “the talk” about how to get out your license and registration–very slowly and explaining every move as you make it.

    I am so grateful, Steph, that you are willing to do the work to become antiracist. I’m still doing it. I read, I pray, and mostly, I listen. Now is the time to amplify Black voices, rather than our own. It’s not about me.

  25. Your knitting analogy was like a light bulb being turned on for me. It really provided clarity about my lack of expertise and how I need to go to the people who are the experts to find out how I can help to be a part of the solution, not just for those in the black community but for all marginalized and racialized communities.

  26. The whole situation makes me weep. I am an elderly white woman, but I have close family of color. I am afraid for them. Asha Tomlinson of CBC Marketplace wrote a piece about the world she is raising her beautiful wee boy in. That was the last straw and my anger and tears are just doing the day.

  27. Perhaps if for one day Stephanie and Rebekah Rising could have the use of newspaper front pages for their human thoughts and descriptions of what is happening that the average person would like to hear and understand that most of us feel the problems could be discussed and some sort of coming together could be achieved. I need to know that others were have the same thoughts and uncertainties that I am experiencing. Thanks to both of you for expressing this. My expression my be a little jumbled but oh so sincere.

  28. Thank you Stephanie and to all who have commented here. You give me hope. I would also say as I’ve been saying to friends and family; VOTE! Vote in every local election AND in November. Vote like your life (or the life of someone you love) depends on it. Stay safe.

  29. I realized today I too was waiting for your next post.
    Yes let’s listen to the experts and continue to educate ourselves. Those who can donate (money/stuff/time), let’s do as much as we can.
    All of the knitting I did over the weekend was wrong and had to be ripped out. I couldn’t create the right fabric while distracted by the news/twitter. That problem is easily repairable.
    Maybe the discussions about COVID19, and how racism is also a public health issue, will actually now create changes at all levels of Canadian politics.
    We are so close to a universal basic income, as one example.
    Please keep very well and thanks again for your amazing posts.
    from Toronto

  30. Stephanie – I follow your blog faithfully, but don’t comment, although I really felt your pain with your Mom’s passing and of course baby Charlotte.
    Today you entirely captured my feelings about the marches/protests going on right now. Thank you for being honest and empathetic. And eloquent.

  31. Andre Picard writing in the globe and mail and speaking on cbc points out that racism is as much or more of a public health problem as covid and has been going on for years. Can we wake up please,!

  32. Yes, time to frog the existing system. It’s no longer enough to use my white privilege to help those oppressed by systemic racism, I need to use it to eliminate that same white privilege.

  33. Thank you. As always, this is a succinct, personal, highly applicable explanation of the current situation and it helps me to read your blog and have you verbalise almost verbatim my own feelings.

  34. Right on, Harlot!

    Steph, you know what? I think your next book ought to be a collection of those essays – like this one – where you’ve voiced and important view which essentially reflects “how we can make our world a better place”. Over my years of reading your blog, those are the ones that have stuck with me.

    Just a thought.

    Warmly,
    Maura

  35. What taught me much (not all I need, but much) about systemic discrimination is the documentary “Traces of the Trade”–the film maker doesn’t come up with a solution, but I found it full of information about the extent of racial discrimination, the benefits my ancestors had from slave trade without owning slaves, and showing some attitudes I hadn’t been self-aware of.
    I support ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, MSF, and a host of others, but would appreciate suggestions of black organizations to support.

  36. Thank you so much for this. You have navigated some tricky terrain in a clear and illuminating way. Very well done!

  37. I just wanted to say thank you. You verbalized a lot of what I have had rattling around in my head and helped me see a direction I could move in.

  38. Thank you for a way anyone who sincerely wants to shift from being, even unconsciously, part of the problem towards being part of the solution can begin. Now.

  39. Yes! Precisely. It is up to me as a person of privilege to educate myself- not the job of my black friends

  40. Thank you for this thoughtful blog. My sister lives in Minneapolis very close to the first neighborhood destroyed. We are white but my sister considers this her home and was very traumatized by the violence. I asked for her input for places to make contributions. It wasn’t million dollars, but I hope it gives strength and hope to those affected.

  41. I wish you had named “it”. To be clear, I mean the Black Lives Matter protests.
    I wish you had included links to the experts you are following, because algorithms and search engines being what they are, your readers may not be able to track down the same information you are finding important.
    I wish you had said the words “black people” in a post about being anti-racist.
    I wish we didn’t have to unlearn all of this garbage that is inherent in us due to generations of white supremacy, privilege and colonization. But, here we are.
    Thank you for this post, such as it is. I hope we can all work on doing better as we go forward

  42. Thank you Stephanie. I’m shaken to the core by not only the most recent events but also the realization that this pattern goes back hundreds of years in America. I watched “13th” and started reading White Fragility. And tried to talk to my husband about it – we are both white – and was told to take my white privilege and stuff it. How do we heal from this? I don’t have answers but will listen to the experts as you said. Thank you.

  43. Wow, your eloquence gets me every time! Thank you. I hope everyone uses their right to vote, not only to get rid of the narcissistic jerk in the White House, but in local elections where meaningful change can be made quicker. Educate yourselves and if it’s too much work to do the research, follow advice from someone you trust. Non-voters are as much to blame as those who continue to vote for candidates and issues that perpetuate racism. I truly feel that change is coming.

  44. Thank you Steph, for inviting this important conversation into your virtual living room.

    I live in a racially, ethnically diverse neighborhood, in a city that is equally diverse. I see how the police here behave, including the shooting of an unarmed young man last week who was already on his knees with his hands in the air. I see on local social media how the victim-blaming has already started. All I can think is that even IF he was there to loot the Walgreens, he was entitled to a trial, and if convicted the penalty for theft and property damage is NOT the death penalty.

    I have worked to educate myself and will continue to do so. I have and will vote locally and nationally for candidates who will do better. I will do what I can, because this must not continue.

  45. The icon is pants — to me this implies it’s time to put on the ‘big girl pants’! So, thank you very much for opening this important conversation, this dialogue you’ve enabled us to have, which allows us to hear a few of the voices we really do need to listen to. Any one of us can do the research necessary to begin to understand what we do not experientially know, search-engine limitations or not. And it’s vital that we begin to do so. Thank you again, and yes, the knitting analogy works!

    • BTW, an absolute “YES” to relying on the experts in any given field. Social media can help; many people use Twitter, for e.g., including specialists in many fields. (You do need to discern which voices to heed, but that’s always true!)

  46. Stephanie, I just wanted to say that if more people looked at the world the way you do, it would already be a better place. Finding and trusting the experts – if we had that – we’d be well on our way… Best commentary I’ve read yet – about the pandemic and the race relations upheaval.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.