An Open Letter to Family, Friends, & Acquaintances about Anti-Racism

I am utterly exhausted, angry, and filled with deep sorrow from having to constantly demand accountability and justice. I am overwhelmed from educating family, friends, and strangers about the never-ending acts of violence against my black and brown brothers, sisters, and siblings.

Here’s the thing, family, friends, and acquaintances:

BEING NICE IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

BEING LESS RACIST IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

BEING A “GOOD” CHRISTIAN IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

BEING A SOCIAL WORKER IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

HAVING A BLACK OR BROWN FRIEND IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

BEING BLACK, BROWN, OR BORN AND RAISED IN A DIVERSE COMMUNITY IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

CLAIMING TO BE ANTI-RACIST IS NOT THE SAME AS BEING ANTI-RACIST.

Let’s not run around the bush: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland (and countless others!) were murdered because of RACISM. Let’s not shy from calling it what it is.

We live in an inherently racist world (not country, world). The sinister and vile roots of racism runs so deep within ALL of us that many of us don’t even recognize it. This is a horrifying fact.

The U.S. has an on-going history of 400+ years of black slavery – White Supremacy has an even longer history. It is 2020 and racism continues to run rampant behind countless overt and covert forms, including (but not limited to) the “White Savior Complex” (i.e., “but I feed and clothe the poor!”), the denial of racism (i.e., “that wasn’t racist, it was a joke!”), “internalized oppression” (i.e., “I am in a White Space therefore I must make myself small.”), “All Lives Matter” (i.e., “…but everyone’s life matters!”) the denial of White Privilege (i.e., “my skin color has no influence in the life I’ve built nor the life my parents built”) and perhaps the most deadly combination: White Ignorance (i.e., “I know enough!”) and White Fragility (i.e., “I feel attacked because I am uncomfortable in hearing about the role my skin color and experience have contributed to racial injustice and inequality”). None of these are new concepts – this is a centuries-old reality.

There are countless black and brown bodies dead by murder while COVID-19 is disproportionately plaguing black and brown communities.

Y’ALL. We need to WAKE UP.

We need to STOP saying “the system is broken”. It’s not. It is functioning exactly the way it was intended by the slave-owning, white supremacists that robbed the very land we are standing upon from First Nation people.

We need to STOP asking black and brown people to educate us on what we don’t know. Is 400+ years not long enough to selfishly rely on the black and brown community? Asking and expecting black and brown people to have these exhausting conversations while there is undeniable grieving and righteous anger in black and brown communities is too much.

We need to STOP posting photos and videos of dead black bodies because of personal shock and surprise – this pain is not new; these actions are not new. It’s triggering.

We need to STOP saying we were “born anti-racist”. That statement is a slap in the face; a punch to the gut. Perhaps what is even more dangerous than claiming to be “colorblind” is using birth to justify not seeing and not understanding black and brown experiences. NO ONE is born anti-racist.

We need to STOP thinking good intention is enough. It’s not. STOP considering intention over impact. Good intentions mean nothing when the impact results in perpetuated racism.

There is a difference between being non-racist and anti-racist. Don’t confuse the two.

Anti-racism is NOT a destination, it is an on-going process, filled with daily decisions of recognizing and eradicating institutional racism in the spaces we work, live, and play in.

If we really want to work towards becoming anti-racist – if we really want to be an ally – then we need to DO OUR HOMEWORK. Do the hard work. Ask ourselves the difficult questions. Look at the charts and read the books – because they do matter and they are needed. The black and brown community is not here to provide shortcuts to lack of understanding. Understand that racism and bigotry is at the core of this nation. Most of all, PLEASE pay attention and listen to what black and brown people have been trying to communicate for centuries. Do not mistake cries for justice as violence. White Supremacy is violence.

We can’t work towards building a more anti-racist world without first recognizing racism in ourselves.

The moment we realize WE ALL have racist tendencies is the moment we can truly begin working towards anti-racism. We have racist tendencies regardless of what we think and regardless of what we deny – are we facing ourselves?

Anti-racism is not about trying to prove who’s less racist. It’s about coming to terms with understanding none of us can escape the influence of White Supremacy and instead, must consciously make the decision and effort to daily uproot it in ourselves, in our institutions, and our systems.

-A

P.S. Check out these posts by @theconsciouskid, @blackcoffeewithwhitefriends, and @rachel.cargle. They have really shook me these past several weeks. I hope they impact you too.

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