I will never forget my reaction when I heard the Not Guilty 2013 decision in the trial that let the murderer of Trayvon Martin go free. I was wrapping up teaching a study abroad course overseas. I thought what kind of nation are we to let child killers go free? I have had to ask that question repeatedly in the years since along with what kind of nation are we to kill unarmed people who are supposed to be free? I spent many days during my teenage years walking through the streets with a bag of skittles (my favorite at the time) and a bottle of iced tea from the neighborhood store near my family members’ houses. Trayvon have easily been me or my friend or my family member. Can still be me. Here we are once again—more unarmed black people are dead. This time at the hands of law enforcement. If anyone is wondering what all the unrest is about, take a horrific walk down memory lane. (Here is a reminder from NPR: "A Decade of Watching Black People Die.")
Speaking personally, I’m not interested in attending another workshop or panel discussion. I’m not saying they are not valuable for some who may be unfamiliar with the issues, but I won’t be in attendance. I’ve been to plenty. What I am interested in is action within specific businesses, organizations, neighborhoods, and governments to specifically, explicitly, and continually identify racist and/or discriminatory practices, policies, biases, laws, and inequities AND to take specific immediate action to rectify them and to implement the closest thing we can ever get toward restitution for them.
If we can only commit to kindness, I’m sorry to say that won’t be enough. Kindness, hugs, and prayers, alone will not be enough. Kind people have always been there. Strategic action to end systemic racism in all of the many domains of our society is the only path to lasting change in a country literally built on racist systems. I love kindness, but it hasn’t been enough and won’t be enough. I love this country but that doesn’t change the racist threads that are woven entirely through its history and institutions. The disparities are everywhere you look. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I certainly hope we will commit to doing more collectively than simply being kind. That should be a given.
There is no such thing as racial colorblindness. We are wired to categorize things in our world, including people. This is why we need to talk to our children and our fellow adults about racism. Silence will not make it go away. Silence is a temporary numbing agent in an unwise attempt to ignore an invasive disease.
Sometimes I get discouraged (especially as a Black woman with a Black partner raising a Black family) because I know we can get everyone to agree that there is a problem in our society. But the truth is that we don't need to win everyone over. Every major positive change in society (i.e., abolition of slavery, voting rights, Civil Rights) has been controversial and not everyone has agreed on it. If those who do agree would move from apathy to attention to action, then I believe we would see improvements for the treatment of Black Americans. I encourage you to pay attention to public and private rules, policies, and laws. Point out discriminatory policies and practices. Question why negative disparities exist in so many segments of society. Speak up in the face of racist language and jokes. Vote for local, state, and federal officials who truly commit to policies that promote racial equality. I hope that as HDFS students and professionals we can stand together to create a more welcoming world for Black Americans so that one day we can truly say all lives matter.
Research suggesting general biases in infants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRvVFW85IcU&fbclid=IwAR09vcQe84WSEHc1UlbmaMVbqO9FkzN8ra-JrRAdIox6DgEBkbXKuAIgtG0&app=desktop
Resources for talking to children about race: https://booksforlittles.com/racial-diversity/?fbclid=IwAR3nyM2Pc3L-XwLqm969nSKrxtltLWrwTBoqKl3i3hJ3lqe5U5DwO9KC_6M
More resources for talking to kids about race: https://www.prettygooddesign.org/blog/Blog%20Post%20Title%20One-5new4?fbclid=IwAR2Z2_wn_Zpbxppk9rUjNYXYg8jiTM4a52LFo6Ul9zQA3eDna-mXpUHpGo4
Resources for adults: https://daily.jstor.org/institutionalized-racism-a-syllabus/?utm_campaign=JSTOR&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=1591022946&fbclid=IwAR3B5RUvaonJeqTTQDVn9X-xLyEH1ikz5VKh9yveDgMu4-4CAopPqWsn8KE
Much of this post has been constructed from my posts on social media on the subject. I hope this makes my view clear in an important issue.