We Don't Need Another Wake-up Call
We all mourn and grieve this week for the loss of life in Charlottesville.
this feels insufficient to the needs of this situation and the larger context of normalized bigotry and discrimination in this country. I decry the feckless and inauthentic response of this President to violent white nationalists (i know no other kind honestly) marching publicly and with the implicit permission of a system of white supremacy. As Heather Hayer reminded us and would be doing right now if she were alive, if we are not outraged, we are not paying attention. Of course, she wasn't the first person to say that, nor was she the first to die in this line of fire, and this was not the first of these incidents. She knew that. It was why she marched. I know that too. I (choose to) turn away sometimes - and I know that this society allows me to. I also know that to be black in this country is not to be able to ever turn away.
Eight months ago, on December 4, 2016, I posted this on Facebook, "We chased the Klan out of Danville va and Pelham NYC on Saturday. Cowards. They drove through a town 35 miles away, a "car" parade. A New York Times reporter said he found their "exalted cyclops" hiding out in a Days Inn. We shut shit down - and built of love and community and strong legs and minds, this is only the beginning." With a car load of friends from DC, I had gone to show the KKK that they weren't going to be able to take over this small town, to intimidate its black residents (this way anyway), to have my feet move on what deepest fears about the emerging realities of this administration's rhetoric and oppressive action. We left that one day high from the experience of making a difference. It feels sort of naive now. As if we could chase this out, expel it, move it out of our mainstream white dominant frame. We didn't and couldn't. The reality is, this too is America.
In the middle of the last century, one of our nation's great prophets, James Baldwin, wrote, "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." For those of us who experience the world as white, in which group I include myself, we need to hold this rage alongside people of color, not to have it shouldered only by those who experience the discrimination, and systematic oppression day in and day out. I know that to be black in this country is to experience an America where you have to work twice as hard to get half as much. I recognize that I can't even begin to understand. And I can't stop trying, stop learning and stop showing up. We have a role.
Let's also look at "leadership" in this case, or the lack of it. The most senior formal authorities have advanced laws and policies that empower hatred and bigotry. The conditions that encouraged this past weekend's organized public march are undeniably real with deep roots in our country's past. They yield a toxic harvest today. The truth is that white supremacy is also a present threat to our organizations and our communities.
For more on how to see and confront our participation in a white supremacist system, read too this post and links from my friend, sector colleague and AchieveMission board member Monisha Kapila --
We don't need another wake-up call to keep doing our work, exposing and confronting prejudice and unchecked authority in all its forms.
But the explicit personal race hatred on display in Charlottesville and, lets be honest, this White House, can complicate addressing the sources of systemic inequities including unconscious bias, institutional racism, oppression, white fragility and opportunity gaps in our own organizations. It can be tempting to let ourselves off the hook because we are saturated with images of people doing much, much worse.
We can't let up, not now, doing the daily work - having the conversations, looking to where we even put up barriers that prevent equity and inclusion (through mindset and practice), and taking them down - over and over and over again.
We can imagine and move into a different future, dismantling the mindsets and systems that stoke and implicitly condone or allow systemic oppression in all of our communities across the country. Together, we can.
- Mikaela Seligman, Principal