Dear America: Part 3
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
Believe it or not, this is my love letter to you. Love is a funny thing; it makes things easy and hard at the same time. It’s easy to accept love’s validation and care while hard sometimes to accept its pain and distress. But love moves you to push for both.
I love you, America, and that’s why I’m calling for your racism to end.
In order for racism to disappear, not to be evident, one would assert there would need to be an unraveling of mankind, and that is not a mortal feat, no matter how many scientific advances we can make. Racism has the intelligence to outlive us all. It is a boomerang that can be flung explicitly or implicitly, forgotten or ignored, but is always calculated as it thrusts through the decades only to whip back to our current reality. The boomerang effect of racism is like the ricochet that is felt when one is caught off guard and unwillingly positions their face in the line of sight of the boomerang’s path. I would submit that watching the boomerang in slow motion as it hurls its way toward you, evading your ill-timed reflexes, only to have your face catch it rather than your hand, is the ever-present diligence of trying to escape racism’s path. I am deeply aware of racism’s boomerangs, consciously and subconsciously, as I maneuver through life.
Racism holds its flight pattern for generations and will continue to unless it gets extracted from its path. The extraction of racism is, you guessed it, truth moved into deliberate action. We are responsible for telling the truth of our history, the truth of the married voices of positional power, and lived experiences of where, when, and why racism began. We can hold the promise of deliberate action, knowing that action must be aligned to the adaptive work of anti-racism and not just the tokens of technical resolutions.
I love you, America, and that’s why I’m calling for your allegiance to white privilege to end.
My love for you, America, allows me to shine a light on a piece of the American fabric that may be one of the strongest threads we try to pull. That thread, for some, is a birthright that was created as a central fixture of racism at the onset of our nation. The color of the thread is privilege. Yes, privilege has a color. The closer you are to matching privilege’s color, the more inheritance of its entitlement you receive. This thread is woven into every walk of life and is resistant to abrasion, as Emmanuel Acho, author of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, said. It promotes color-blind analysis of poverty, gender affiliation, religious affiliation, language variation, and much, much more. White privilege speaks through laws, culture, economies, education, rules of conduct, acceptance; the list, one could argue, feels like it has no end. Without ever directly acknowledging me, white privilege sets the tone that I don’t belong here, or I should be happy to have been invited. It permeates unconscious and conscious decisions of who gets to learn within their full potential and who does not.
Race in the United States signifies who has the power and to be white or white-affiliated means you either wield the power or are close enough to grasp wisps of its benefits. For some of my white friends, relatives, and colleagues, this is a distressful acknowledgment: to assume that inheriting this power means you never have to or had to struggle. That’s one of the precarious characteristics of racism; it elicits a false narrative of struggling vs. oppression. It rings forth comparative suffering which is a child of racism. For we have all struggled but we have not all been oppressed. Privilege also gives the gift of invisibility. To be invisible means you can make a mistake and not carry the burden of having taken away your race and/or ethnicity’s value of its humanity. The cost of denying humanity stretches across generations and runs right through our deferred dream of America.
I love you, America, and that’s why I know that our collective love for our country and each other can slow and eventually extinguish racism’s boomerang of selective power.
We can start by moving beyond the compunction of white privilege and creating actionable resistance, over and over, failing and trying again until we build new neural pathways of behavior and understanding. This means that if we are to stay on the course of creating allyship with our white counterparts, they will have to stay focused and dedicated to giving up privilege and activating anti-racism by calling it out and collectively creating conditions of equality and equity. This will require new learning and new habits of mind.
As for me and my friends, family, and colleagues of color, we must step out of the prefabricated estimates of who we are and into whom we dream and long to be. As Toni Morrison said, “The function, the very serious function of racism is a distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.” We must move past the “one more thing.” We must move from experiencing America’s pain and distress to sharing its validation and care for we are all Americans. We must move past our urges of imposter syndrome and sit proudly in our historical, global, and local cultural contexts, speaking our truth with the audacity that is afforded to every human being and upheld in our Constitution.
My love for you, America, is held in every heartbeat and step we make toward our dream of “One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL.”
This is part three of a three-part series.
Read Part 1 | Read Part 2