I really debated writing a follow up to my last post. But this morning as I sat in our local coffee shop and read Lindy West’s book, The Witches Are Coming, I was inspired to write. If there is one thing I like about her writing it is that she speaks up for other people and she takes on responsibility for her own stuff.
But this post isn’t for everyone. This one’s for my white friends only.
Listening to Dan Pashman’s The Sporkful podcast episode When White People Say Plantation, last week I heard Osayi Endolyn ask about what the word plantation evokes in white people that they continue to use it as a label for recipes, drinks and such. I learned so much about where my responsibility with racism starts and ends. Which is all of it. It’s not my black friends job to fix a problem that white folks created. It’s mine. (Obviously I cannot fix it all myself, I’m just saying I can do something.)Endolyn hands over this question to the podcast host and he does the research and in the end comes back to her with his “findings” which were interviews with white people who have labeled their goods with the word plantation. He realizes that it’s his job to face the problem and not her burden to carry. It was such a great episode.
Last week I shared a story about watching my pilates instructor walk over (twice) to the black woman next to me and touch her hair. She had lots of kind words to say about her hair. But I knew all of it was wrong. Also, I’ll never forget the look on the woman’s face as her hair was being touched.
I had a lot of feedback from all kinds of people. Folks who didn’t want me to be too hard on myself (white people) and folks who shared with me that they had no idea it was wrong to do that (white people.) I also got texts from black friends who offered their own thoughts on the situation. Let me tell you that those texts did not include the words “don’t feel so bad.” I don’t think that means they were happy that I felt bad, they just knew it wasn’t their job to comfort me, and I knew that too. I was grateful for all of it. I wanted to be open to whatever people had to say.
I said nothing.
I didn’t know what to do.
I went home and wrote about it and thought about it and talked to people about it.
So, here’s what I decided to do-
Talk to the instructor about it.
And so I did.
I was scared because I love going to pilates and I was worried I would somehow compromise that and just that feeling alone confirmed for me that I needed to say something. I was worried about what it would cost me. I’ve stopped being willing to do the right thing at this point so many times. I decided it was time to take the risk, no matter her reaction or what it could cost me. (Even just bad feelings towards me is like the worst thing in the world to my incredibly sensitive personhood and that has cost me so much in taking risks, I’m tired of that.)
So here’s the brief summary of how it went down-
I talked to her about it.
She was genuinely surprised that what she did was wrong.
She asked me questions about why.
She thanked me for telling her.
Honestly, I was surprised at how well it went even though I bumbled my way through it.
So here’s the last thing I want to say-
This isn’t to praise myself, I promise. I have not said something a million more times than I’ve said something. But as a white person, I’m more and more aware that just talking about racism in general isn’t as helpful as talking to my fellow white friends and family about it is.
White friends, does this offend you? If it does, why? Are you open to being called out about things you do that may be racist? Are you open to taking responsibility for the systemic racism in our country? If not, why? Why is this so hard for us to face??
I am in this boat with all of you, just so you know. It’s not me pointing at you, it’s me talking to you.
Not necessarily asking for you to respond to me directly, but please just think about this before you comment on my post.
It’s something to think about, for all of us.
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