Dear America, I don’t know how to fix you, but I’m going to try.
I don’t know how to undue the damage that was done before me. I don’t know how to repair the wounds that others have inflicted on you. I don’t know how to unravel the past, and right the wrongs of yesterdays that are causing the anguish of today.
I am not black. I have no idea about the historical and ancestral pain that flows through the blood of an African American person. I can hear the ache of their hearts in the lyrics of songs, and see the struggle in the movies depicting their lives. I can try to empathise, but I cannot claim to understand it.
For a while, I sat in my house of white privilege, unaware that I was silent and a major part of the problem. “Equal rights” does not necessarily mean “equality.” When conversations are spoken under hushed voices because they cary the venom of bigotry, it becomes clear that racism, sexism, and prejudice still heavily permeate the walls of our culture—they have only become silent underpinnings to our society.
Most people don’t preach their prejudice to the world. They tell their secret, ugly thoughts (typically as jokes) to those like-minded people who are close to them or won’t correct their behaviour—I am the latter of the two. I hush people and tell them to stop, but the behaviour doesn’t bother me.
I act like a mother who tells her child to be quiet in church. But just because someone isn’t talking, it doesn’t mean that the intention and ugliness aren’t there, or not lying beneath the surface of the person biting their tongue.
Thinking more critically about this, the same scenario happened when a white officer murdered George Floyd last week. One man’s ugliness, evil behaviour, and hate have ended an innocent man’s life.
But there was another atrocity happening during this incident while Mr. Floyd begged for air. The other officers did nothing to stop what was happening. They allowed it to happen.
We, the white privileged, are allowing racism to happen by not speaking out loudly and correcting the behaviour of those around us who speak ugliness. We are a huge part of this problem, and I refuse to play a passive role in righting these wrongs anymore.
In many of my writings, I talk about how we are all similar. We are all cut from the same blanket, but the patterns and fabric may look different depending from where we are cut. When a part of our population is hurting, we are all hurting—whether we want to recognize this or not. When one of us has a problem, we all have a problem, and the issue will eventually get to a state where we have to face it.
We have to address those issues and create an environment in this country where we all feel safe and able to conduct our lives without having to fear the vicious words or actions of hate and ignorance. These wounds must heal. We must work to undue the damage that was done by those who have walked before us and those who are still holding on to generational hate and bigotry.
I used to tell myself that all was fixed when President Obama took office. I thought to myself, “at last, we are a nation that no longer hold racist beliefs. We have an African American President in office. We have finally reached a point where a person’s colour will no longer hold them back.”
Well, I was wrong. One man’s success story does not mean that the issues of racism and bigotry are not still alive and well in our culture. It means that only one man was able to break the mould and escape from the societal hardships in place that hold people down in a figurative caste system.
We have to start talking about race, and having open conversations about the wrongs that are happening in this country. We have to correct the behaviour of those around us who are allowing racism to still be culturally acceptable. We have to stand and speak up for those who are hurting in this country, and hold the people who are hurting them accountable.
America has always been a country that has prided itself on its diversity. A haven for those who are trapped in governmental systems that keep them from being successful. We may be better than some countries and offer more hope at a profitable life than many, but we have a lot of work to do still.
Our countrymen are in pain. We need to do our share to help right these wrongs for everyone’s sake; yours and mine included.