In light of recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection. Being in media, I have so much information coming at me that sometimes I feel it is better to pause and think and give something of this magnitude the attention it deserves. So, I have been quiet. Not in Apathy, but in Respect for those affected.
After careful consideration this week, I came to one conclusion. I am acutely aware that the existence of racism in our country is complicated and that I don’t have the solution. Though we all want to pretend on social media that it is simple and that we have all the answers, I don’t believe this to be true.
That leaves us with a pretty good place to start. The first step may be admitting that we need to more fully understand the oppression that can affect a person solely because of the color of their skin.
We owe it to George Floyd and those that died before him to do better. We owe it to them to have an open dialogue with our kids and our friends about racism - to better educate ourselves about what we can do to affect change. Because things cannot stay the same.
I admit to being naïve. Because I have always had black friends, I now realize that I have sometimes allowed myself to believe that things are better than they actually are. Especially in Franklin, where my bubble is small and my opinions are based on the experiences that I have in my own social circle. It can feel like progress is being made. Maybe so, but clearly…not nearly enough.
This week, I remembered attending a FrankTalks lecture a while back on race relations lead by James E. Page Jr., Vanderbilt University’s chief diversity officer and vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. When a few people of color (friends of mine in the audience) spoke up about racism that exists in Williamson County, I was a little surprised. Then immediately, I was disappointed in myself for being surprised. Because it showed I was not paying enough attention.
I was seeing racism through my own lens. Not through the lens of those that are affected.
The bottom line is that if I went to a convenience store at midnight, or was seen jogging at night in my neighborhood, it is likely that it would not raise suspicion. It is also likely that if a person of color did either of those things, it might raise suspicion - solely because of the color of their skin. And that is wrong.
That is also the definition of white privilege. It does not mean I asked for it. Or that I should be defensive and insulted by the mention of this term.
It does not mean I have not endured hardships in life. It means the color of my skin is not one of things I have had to think about as being hard. The color of my skin has not caused me to be fearful of being targeted, racially profiled, unfairly stereotyped or misunderstood by people of authority.
So, in my opinion we all have a lot to learn. Even those of us that are not racist and think that having black friends is enough. Or that teaching our children to be kind to everyone is enough. It is not.
It is the bare minimum.
We are a nation divided. Politically, and racially and it is not getting us anywhere. We need to know how to do better. Be better
Kindness, empathy and love are what this world needs more of.
We each have a personal responsibility to give the subject of racism in this country the thoughtful consideration it deserves. And not just when the brutal murder of George Floyd makes it impossible for us to look away.