This is a fact. One that, in the spirit of Black History Month, I’m wrestling with. Here are a few other facts about me that you might want to know.
I am not discriminated against or judged because of the color of my skin. While I don’t have a college education, odds are my economic outcome will be better than my brown-skinned counterparts. Even though I come from a semi-dysfunctional family, I do not have decades of trauma embedded in my DNA. As a gay woman, I get to choose whether or not I want to disclose my sexuality. When someone asks me if I have a husband, I can simply say no.
I know this is heavy, uncomfortable stuff. But it’s in stepping into the discomfort – that many people in our society feel every day – that we can begin to heal. So this year I am celebrating Black History Month in the only way that I know how, by owning my own privilege and my bias, educating myself and using my voice to end racism and discrimination in the world.
Non-Judgement Starts With Me
I used to think I wasn’t racist and I wasn’t biased. And then I started reading. Over the past year or so, and especially now during Black History Month, I’ve read a number of powerful books, watched films that impacted my perspective, and engaged in transformational conversations.
I have a new level of awareness and a shift in perspective about myself and the fact that racism and discrimination is still going strong. It occurs on many levels and we as humans are subject to it whether we want to be or not. It’s part of the way we are hardwired and it is part of our belief system, the truth as we see it. Owning it and not being judgmental about it will be foundational for us to be able to make forward movement.
So what am I going to do about this? How am I going to fix this? I’m not. The complexities and twisted tentacles of discrimination and bias is not something we can just fix. We’re not going to flip the light switch and everything is going to be OK tomorrow.
Creating Change by Living Into Your Values and Purpose
What I can do is work on changing the way I see and feel about discrimination and bias, for myself and everyone else in the world. I can get curious about my beliefs and my truths around all of this. I can be willing to put myself in uncomfortable situations and not be judgmental.
This will not be easy. It will require me to have difficult discussions with my friends and family. It will require me to have the courage to ask questions, standup and speak out. But for me it’s worth it because I know that I must live into my purpose of helping create a more generous and loving world and to be an empathetic and loving person. I will lean on my values of love, acceptance and encouragement when the waters get rough and I need a respite.
What purpose and values do you want to live into? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Instead of thinking about what you are going to do about racism and discrimination, think about who you want to be. When you think about it through that lens, it opens up a whole new way of seeing the world, one in which you are part of the solution.
These are some of the books and films that I have found to be enlightening and impactful and have helped me wrap my brain around the very emotional and often times uncomfortable subject of racism.
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
Blindspot: Hidden Bias of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greene
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
“Always In Season” by independent filmmaker Jacqueline Olive
“Coded Bias” by American filmmaker and environmental activist Shalini Kantayya Egbuonu (this film is being shown by Milwaukee Film as part of Black History Month https://mkefilm.org/).
“(In)Visible Portraits” by Oge Egbuonu (this film is being shown by Milwaukee Film as part of Black History Month https://mkefilm.org/).