Earlier this year, I enrolled in an intensive program called “Journey to Allyship: Start Your Own Personal Journey of Eradicating Your Own Racism.” The woman who facilitates the course is Catrice Jackson. She’s a woman of color, an activist, a catalyst for change and racial justice, an amazing business woman and an all-around person whom I greatly admire. I have watched her posts about racial and social justice, about #BlackLivesMatter, and have gone from sitting on my own a$$ and NOT taking to the “social media streets,” as it were, to now speaking up and taking action, helping to raise awareness about racism and injustice, all while working on my own personal journey to eradicate my own racist roots, understandings and beliefs. And trust me when I tell you that my journey is still very much in progress. I show up every day to do my work, I’m committed to making a difference and being of support to People of Color I know, those I do not know, and those who are relegated to a #hashtag by having met their unnecessary, too-early demise.
One of the things that profoundly struck me (and if I’m honest, still haunts me) was reading some of the posts that Catrice has shared on the notion that “silence is violence.” And when I read the words, it always stung a little bit, but I didn’t really understand it. You know, like I didn’t REALLY get it. That is, until something happened that crystallized the statement for me in a very painful way – a way that deeply hurt my friend and showed me what “silence is violence” really means.
A quick recap of what happened: I shared a #BlackLivesMatter post that got a comment from a white female friend of mine that said “all lives matter.” And sure, they do, but that’s not the point behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement at all. The point is that People of Color have been intentionally left powerless and deprived of basic rights as human beings. Well, the conversation turned heated and very ugly between this friend claiming that all lives matter and my friend Catrice. Over the course of an hour, the comments went back and forth, and then the friend who had commented that “all lives matter” deleted all of her comments and retreated into what I’ve learned is one of many weapons of whiteness – that of white fragility. Essentially, she stopped communicating, responding, and emotionally, she shut down and became fragile over the interaction because it was around the topic of racism. I was offline for a few hours and when I logged in, I saw the blow out and I learned that I had left Catrice alone on the battlefield – which is where I circle back to learning what “silence is violence” really means.
Every time an act of violence is carried out against a Person of Color, and justice isn’t served, do you stand up and call it out? Do you demand justice? If you are white or someone who has light-colored skin that maybe identifies as a “minority,” do you realize that you have a privilege, based on the color of your skin?
One of the other big takeaways I have learned during my time in the program is that conversations about racism are not centered around me. The experiences that People of Color experience are not ones that I personally have experienced. I will never be able to fully understand. It all comes back to standing in a place of compassion, empathy, validation and support – not turning anything that is shared into something about me, because it isn’t about me. At. All.
I challenge you to start somewhere – share a post on social media, get involved in a movement in your area, get educated so you can help bring a voice to those who do not have a voice…help stand up for the rights of People of Color who are systematically being targeted and killed based on the color of their skin.
Want to learn more about the #BlackLivesMatter movement? Learn more here.
If you’re committed to eradicating your own racism, showing up and doing the hard work, I encourage you to check out Catrice’s program. The next course starts September 11, 2017.