White Hesitation: My confession to the BIPOC Community.
Dear People of Colour,
I have been biding my time for the last month or so, watching, listening, thinking, learning. I have been challenged. And I have come to the conclusion that I need to come to you humbly with an apology. I have been satisfied with my quiet anti-racism for much too long. For too long I have sought to do no harm rather than acting as a true advocate.
I am a white, cisgender female from the upper-middle class. When we are talking about white privilege, I fit the bill pretty perfectly, but I have always fancied myself an ally for those on the margins. I have more often spoken out in support of LGBTQ+ folks, but for reasons I am just beginning to recognize, I have been more reticent to speak out publicly or loudly against racism. I have spent the last month or so reflecting on this, and the following are my humble, honest, heartfelt confessions.
I didn't want to make waves. The topic of race is a lighting rod for defensiveness from white folks. No one wants to admit that there is systemic racism because, hello, we are all a part of those systems. Friends, I have often failed to advocate for you because I didn't want to piss people off, or start up facebook fights with my husband's dad's sister's cousin-in-law, or even worse, an acquaintance or friend right in front of me. I have too often chosen to protect my own discomfort and the discomfort of those around me over the human rights of people on the margins. I am so ashamed.
I was afraid to say the wrong thing. I have hidden behind the excuse that I want people of colour to speak up for themselves. I know that I cannot speak for BIPOC, but I have stayed silent using this excuse because I have been afraid of being called out, corrected, or shamed. I have made this about me. I am so ashamed.
I have overlooked systemic racism when I have witnessed it. This one hurts. I have worked in many different organizations, and in every single one I have witnessed systems that sneakily or overtly favour white folks over black and indigenous ones. I have seen this, and I have spoke out to my friends of colour, telling them this is not ok, that I see it, that they need to speak up. This wasn't enough. I haven't done anything meaningful to make change in these organizations. I am so ashamed.
I have felt flooded. More specifically, I have the privilege of letting myself shut down when I get flooded. I let my overwhelm keep me quiet and comfortable, turning off the news and licking my own wounds. I am so ashamed.
People of Colour, I can't even begin to imagine the anguish and rage inside of you as you watch current events unfold. I am beginning to realize the ways my silence has contributed to the perpetuation of violence against people of colour. I am so sorry for the ways I have been complicit in furthering the suffering of your community.
I will tell you that I will commit to learning from people of colour about what I can do. I will commit to reaching out to the people of colour in my circles to see how they are and how I can help. I will commit to reading and listening to the voices who are leading the way to justice. I will commit to speaking out in large and small forums when I see injustice even when it may cost me. And finally, I will commit to continually checking in with myself and my privilege to make further confessions, because I know I won't get this all right.
People of colour, please forgive me.
Disclaimer: I am sure that I haven't covered it all or gotten everything right. This is my attempt at beginning. I am very open to respectful comments and discussion on anything I have written.