I’ve spent a lot of the last year reading and listening about racism. I’ve had conversations with people I respect and whose views and perspectives on race come from personal experience.
Before the last year and a half or so, I thought I understood what my friends who have been impacted by racism were going through. I’m a liberal woman with friends of many ethnicities, gender identifications and other “I’m super not racist and totally understand what my friends are facing” categories. I question my thinking and ask other people to call me on bullshit if I say or do something that makes them feel badly or isn’t in line with how they know I want to live. I thought I got it.
And then I read a post by my friend, Amiyrah Martin that punched me in the gut. She was writing in response to the verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial. I read her post and then couldn’t get it out of my head. Amiyrah and I have sons the same age. From her writing, I can tell that we are trying to raise them with an emphasis on respect, honor, empathy, good manners and laughter.
Here’s why Amiyrah’s post hit me the way others haven’t. I thought that the conversations about how to act when confronted by police were for the generations before ours. I didn’t think that a child born to a peer, born the same year as my son, would ever have to hear that warning. Because except for the respect for authority part of the conversation, I can’t imagine ever having to have that conversation with my children. The fact that someone who is so much like me in so many ways, who has a boy who could be my boy, has to teach her son how to avoid attracting the attention of police reduced me to tears. Amiyrah’s post made me connect with how big racism still is in a powerful way.
I have been listening to a lot of very smart people this last year, and I plan to continue to listen. Kelly Wickham has written so much that I’ve been listing to, but you should read this one especially. I’ve been grateful for our conversation and for the thousands of words she’s written on the topic of racism.
I’d rather talk about it here and now than to know that my friends are talking to their children about how to avoid getting harassed, arrested, or shot.
In addition to Kelly and Amiyrah, you should also listen to A’Driane Nieves who is wickedly smart and passionate about many things including racism, mental health, and access to excellent education for everyone.
I’m listening to these women, who else should I be listening to?