“Overcoming Obstacles to Create Community” is an initiative of the Women’s Voices’ Racial Justice Committee. Each month, we’ll provide timely, concrete ideas and suggestions you can include in your daily lives.
March – Dig Deeper…It Begins with Me
Human rights experts recommend starting with the language we use and the assumptions we make about others. At the end of this page are some questions you might ask yourself. But first, consider the comments of Jamala Rogers, featured columnist for The St. Louis American newspaper and executive director of the Organization for Black Struggle. She has written a letter challenging white people “to courageously engage family, friends, co-workers, church members and your other associations in civil discourse and education around the difficult issue of racism and white privilege.” Read more of her statement:
Dear white people, it’s me again
March 8, 2019 – The St. Louis American
“In my Dear White People letter to you in 2014, you got a compressed history primer on how racism infects all of us. I encouraged you to challenge the racist status quo particularly as it is manifested in police and court practices. I reminded you that the social justice movement is as much about changing hearts and minds as it is about changing laws and policies.
The incidents of white supremacy have reared their ugly heads too many times in the last few years. And there’s been a bit of backsliding by white folks who said they wanted to confront the systemic evils – until it meant confronting their own implicit biases and white privilege. All this compels me to revisit the part about “changing hearts and minds” in my first letter.
“…Your mission is to courageously engage family, friends, co-workers, church members and your other associations in civil discourse and education around the difficult issue of racism and white privilege. Don’t underestimate the importance of this mission.
“…The mantra of white people waving the anti-racist banner is to work towards a re-alignment of political power that’s fair and inclusive. This means a rejection of policies and practices that harm Black lives.
“In my first Dear White People letter, I assured you that what black folks want for their families is no different from what you want for your loved ones. That’s still true.
“Black Lives Matter can’t just be trendy or rhetorical. It’s easy to post a yard sign or wear a button. We’re talking transformation here, from the micro (personal) to the macro (societal). It means challenging the criminalization of black bodies and black communities. It means divesting in the over-policing and mega-incarceration of Black people and investing in black communities and black futures.
“…To date, the progress of white folks towards building an equitable society could use a boost. Racial disparities abound in every quality of life facet. It’s time for some meaningful breakthroughs.
“This a time for white allies to be bold and unflinching. Black folks got your back.”
Source: Rogers, Jamala (2019, March 8). Dear White People, it’s me again. Retrieved from URL
And here are some questions you might ask yourself:
- How wide is my circle of friends? How diverse are the people who visit my home? Am I willing to enlarge my circle and invite more folks in?
- How integrated is my neighborhood? My child’s school? My workplace? Are there things I might do to change this?
- Do I have the courage to ask a friend not to tell racist joke? If someone in my group makes a racist comment, do I let it pass or do I say something? If I say something, what do I say?
- Do I take economic and racial segregation and systemic racism for granted? If not, am I willing to try to change things? What is one concrete step I might take to make a change in systemic racism?
- Do I look with disdain at the homeless or families on welfare or do I try and understand the socioeconomic forces that prevent many from climbing out of poverty?
- Do I take time to listen and learn from other people’s experiences…especially people with whom I might initially disagree?
- Do I ever catch myself making micro-aggressions against people who are different from me?
- Do I dare to cross the Delmar divide to attend church or other activities?
- When taking a stand on an issue, do I first ask myself how it might affect the Black community?
- To learn more about yourself and your unconscious biases, take the Harvard bias test. Visit implicit.harvard.edu.