Monday, July 27, 2015

Own It

This post will be short, sweet and to the point.

I have read a tremendous amount from really thoughtful, smart people on both sides of the conversation about race.  Among them, I have only read one person who suggested any action points but all of them were external (hang a sign, vote, etc.)

I've been thinking about this for a while and I think we are missing the point.  All of this is internal so we need to start inside ourselves.  For what it's worth, here are my commitments to make some real change around race.

1.   I will stop referring to people by their race.  How many times have you had this conversation?  I know I've had it a million times.  "Hey, do you know Dave?", "Dave who?". "I don't know his last name.  He's the black guy."  I live in Yonkers.  Referring to a man as a black guy is a meaningless description.  I am saying nothing about Dave that would cause another person to recognize him by simply saying he is black.  There are tens of thousands of "black guys" in Yonkers.  In this conversation I am giving the other person completely useless information and I am choosing to describe Dave with something that is simply not relevant.  I am doing them both a disservice.  Unless I can justify a solid argument for describing someone by their race, I will no longer do it. 

2.  I will be a bigger dick than than the person who is a racist.  My mind has been blown by the number of times I have listened to people spew the most hateful shit and no one says a thing.  At a local bar a few years ago, a woman who is considered a bit of a "character" was letting loose with some really bad racist rants at the bar.  No one batted an eyelash.  I finally asked her to stop.  She responded by saying "Oh Karen, what are you going to do, call me a fascist?"  I simply told her that, no, I didn't actually believe that she knew what being a fascist was and that she was simply a bigot. 

Suddenly the bar went silent.  Suddenly I was the asshole who was "starting something".  Too bad.  I will do this more often.

3.   I will make a conscious effort to share my privilege.  I am white.  I know I have it easy. But it is simply an accident of birth.  Perhaps being a white male trumps my white femaleness but I still have a significant amount of power.  So I will make sure that I am holding myself to the highest standards of fairness. 

It is very easy for me to say that I am not a racist.  And I believe that I am not.  But I have really bad habits.  And it is my responsibility to own it.  I am grateful that the life that I have chosen to live and the career path that I have chosen has allowed me to experience so many different people.  But the fact that I have used the phrase "black friends" bothers me.  I can do better than this.  And so can you. 

Stop talking about racism and start doing something about this--from the inside out.


Pat S said...

Yeah, so I described a new boat club member to the commodore for him to meet -" that woman with the black hair, and the white tee shirt standing near your boat, 5'4" ish." him "who, where "? me 'sigh, the black women...."

Gracey is not my name.... said...

Good for you...if we all make a conscious effort to change, even if it is something small...the world will be a a better place....I teach in a high minority, high poverty district...and the kids really do accept each other for who they they get older, we do have to fight the growing racism....most of my students are of a Latino descent....and rascism creeps in between the different cultures....