I know I have a lot of good to share, but this past week has put me to the test. Old pain rose like bile in my stomach. I’ve been sickened and devastated, hopeless and hopeful. Outraged and vociferous one moment, and thoughtful and speechless the next. I was born in 1968, the same year Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. My generation was the first born after the civil rights movement. We had an expectation of freedom and justice. We became doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers and businesspeople. We got union jobs and started our own businesses. We became poets, artists, musicians, singers and dancers. We became scientists, astronauts, senators and even a president. We created rap music and hip-hop culture. We opened restaurants serving Soul, Caribbean and African food. Black people have given so much to the landscape of this country. In many ways we have made the United States the envy of the world for our diversity and our perceived freedoms.
As a black woman, I’ve always known America’s dirty little secret. Whether it was quietly tucked in a closet, or clearly displayed in the middle of our national living room. For most of my life I’ve been able to shield myself: living in a black neighborhood, opting out of online groups when the conversation turned racist, not renting or driving in certain communities, avoiding racist websites, and ignoring racist comments and confederate flags. I have not been able to shield myself from egregious corporate racism. I first learned to suck it up, then I learned to walk away. Corporate America is not for me.
Lately, I’ve had white people ask what they can do to help the current civil unrest. Racism is a white problem. Black people can bring attention to it, but we cannot fix it. It’s in the hearts and minds of white people, who make up 60% of the population and own more than 98% of the land. https://inequality.org/research/owns-land It’s so pervasive it infiltrates the spirits of little black girls and boys everywhere who think there’s something wrong with their skin or their hair. We are beautiful. Our skin absorbs light and our hair defies gravity. We are magic. If you are white and you want to help, you can begin by telling black children they are beautiful.
Black people do all kinds of things, good and bad, but we are not oppressing white folks. Perhaps we spark occasional jealousy because we age really well and excel whenever given the opportunity. But, we never got our chance at reparations – our 40 acres and a mule. https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/the-truth-behind-40-acres-and-a-mule/ We have more crime because we have more poverty. We have more poverty because we’ve been subjugated to sub-standard education, employment and housing. We didn’t create these problems ourselves – they were created for us. I’m not a proponent of crime, but I don’t think America cares until someone blocks a highway or burns down a building.
Our men, women and children have been murdered over and over again without a shred of remorse. Even people I know who would swear on a stack of bibles that they “don’t see color,” expressed zero concern when Trayvon Martin was murdered and his killer was exonerated. The problem with racism is that it’s based in greed and ignorance, and seeks to divide us. Black mothers love our children just as much as any other mothers do. We have enough resources for everyone, if only we could share.
I hope that we don’t lose this moment in history.
This is our opportunity to heal or fail.
Here are five things we all can do:
- Stay centered – Take care of yourself in the days and weeks ahead. We won’t be good to anyone if we’re falling apart. Get rest. Journal these historic days. Eat well. Say a prayer or meditate.
- Get educated – The U.S. education system has NOT taught you black history, or even an honest American history. If you want to understand more you’ll have to do it on your own. Netflix has become a great resource. Time: the Kalief Browder Story, Thirteenth, When They See Us, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X are all available there. The 1619 Project podcast is also a good place to start. Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer prize for her work this year. We are in the information age. There’s no excuse for ignorance. If you want to go for a more honest history book, try A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
- Get involved – Not everyone has the desire or ability to attend rallies. However, all civil rights organizations need money to function. Become a monthly donor to any organization(s) you choose. I’m particularly impressed with Tamika Mallory and untilfreedom.com. There are many others: The Bail Project, NAACP, Poor People’s Campaign, Color of Change, ACLU. If you can’t donate, volunteer some time. All of these organizations rely on volunteers.
- Spread the word – Take a stand on social media and with family and friends. “Like” Facebook pages of activist sites. Sign petitions. Share online. If you’re white, stop laughing at racist jokes or complaining about reverse racism or “quotas.” Just stop it. If there are no black people in your office or in your company, that’s not okay. We are 14% of the population. We shouldn’t be invisible. We need you. Black people are not in a position to speak up when we are the only one at the office, and our job is on the line. We need anti-racist allies.
- Grow your compassion – I don’t care about your religion; I care about your compassion. The colonizers who enslaved black people were predominantly Christian. Slavery was legal. You will need more than a bible to develop compassion. Set aside a few minutes each day to imagine being born into a black family or another type of home. Give yourself an affirmation: “I am not better than anyone else.” Search out stories of compassion. I love Beloved by Toni Morrison and Freedom Road by Howard Fast. My meditation center offers virtual classes in compassion. Check them out at meditationingeorgia.org.
I think one of the hardest things we can do is look at ourselves. I’ll never forget when I read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. He said “evil doesn’t like to see itself.” (I’m paraphrasing.) He wasn’t talking about a demon, just our own bad behavior. We don’t like to admit when we are cruel, greedy, selfish, prejudice or racist. This country needs healing. We are all imperfect no matter our race. However, I pray that white people can stop stepping on our necks.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The picture is a meme I found online. I noticed Breonna Taylor was not included. She was a 26-year-old EMT who was killed while sleeping in her home, shot over eight times. The police were supposedly executing a warrant, but they were at the wrong address. Her boyfriend was arrested for shooting at the officers that suddenly entered their home without warning. I listened to the 911 call from her boyfriend and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. According to civil rights activist, Shaun King, the police killed her and left – they didn’t even provide an ambulance. Shaun King’s organization also needs donors grassrootslaw.org