I have spent the last few days listening to voices who have experiential knowledge from which my privilege has shielded me. Right now I need to be listening – since I need to learn how best to continue to contribute to this war, so all I will say is this, to those who might be less-inclined to listen to those who know, first-hand, what the hell has been going on, but might listen to me.
As both an historian and as an educator, the denials that the events of the week (and the month and the year and the decade and the century and the millennium) are examples of systemic racism are as delusional as they are shameful.
Anyone who thinks ‘things aren’t really like that’ is about to have an awakening that has been too long coming. All those who still subscribe to the beliefs that have permitted the perpetuation of (white) human-created racial divides needs to be listening to people who are making their voices heard right now.
Race, like religion, is a completely human construct. The amount of melanin in one’s skin, or the geographical location from where one originates, has nothing to do with intelligence or entitlement and certainly nothing to do with rightness or ‘better than.’
Differences in skin colour or culture or where we came from or what gods one might think are the best have always been used as a means of othering – a way to ensure that in our narratives and our history we (as opposed to them) comes out looking like the righteous victor and legitimate inheritor of the Earth, or manifest destiny, or American Exceptionalism, or whatever other supremacist bullshit we have written to justify the subjugation of our fellow human beings.
We made that shit up. We can unmake that shit – but it requires a conscious understanding of its existence and our imperative need to do so.
Jane Elliott put it succinctly: white Americans who grew up within the systems and communities of the US who are not racist are only not racist because they took the time to educate themselves about the systemic inequities upon which the US was built. Growing up within the system did no more than teach them about the system that was stacked in their favour – to the contrived and concerted detriment of all BIPOC.
And, while the US is playing out the truth of this fact right now, the rest of us need to examine our own systems and the inequities upon which they were built and which still drive the ways we live together.
This pandemic is shining light on all kinds of concerns about gaps in freedom and access to services and the ways in which we interact with one another. Many of us have a lot of extra time on our hands right now. Let’s use it to listen and effect change that will let us change the narrative to one that is not based in anachronistic ideals of colonialism and supremacy.
A very short list of the people I’m hearing right now.