Friday, August 15, 2014

An Open Letter to my White Friends and Family

When I read speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., my heart soars with the power and hope in his words. I can only imagine how it would have felt to hear him speak in person! So powerful! So strong! So hopeful! So uplifting!

And then, sadly, I come crashing down in tears because I realize that his words are still for today. Fifty years later and he is still speaking to us. Still describing the world in which we live. Still reminding us that we have not come as far as we think we have. Still calling us to keep pushing on.

As I sit here, with my White privilege like a cushion around me, I cannot help but feel so discouraged for my Black brothers and sisters. For my Black sons. This is not the world I want for them.

How much longer will we refuse to acknowledge and address the racism that is so pervasive and insidious? How much longer will we allow young men to be killed for being Black? How much longer will we look away when we see people treated differently because of the color of their skin? How much longer will we insulate ourselves in our White worlds and refuse to be touched by compassion for those who do not enjoy our privilege? How much longer will we tolerate the racial injustice and the racism that is all around us? How much longer will we be silent?

I can no longer be silent. I want to scream it to anyone who will listen. But who will listen? Who, besides the people that live this, will listen?

Until White people care as much about the racial injustices, racial inequalities and racism as do Black people, nothing will change. My boys will grow up in a world that is barely different from the world fifty years ago. If you will not listen to anyone else, please listen to me. My sons' very lives are at stake. If you know me and care about me, please believe me. We cannot afford to be ignorant of this any longer. We cannot afford to close our eyes because it is too overwhelming. We cannot afford to sit quietly and do nothing.

But what can we do? For a start, we need to educate ourselves. We need to listen to those experiencing racism. I do not mean listen and then argue with them and tell them they are too sensitive or are overreacting or causing a problem when none exists. We need to listen with the intent to believe and understand. We can listen when we read blogs, join Facebook groups, and, most importantly, make friends with People of Color.

Education is a start, but it is not enough. We need to be compassionate and passionate. We need to empathize with those who are having experiences different from our own. We need to feel their experiences as if they were our own, as best we can. We need to speak up. We need to stand alongside and work for change. We need to acknowledge how far we have yet to go and then decide to be the one to take the steps necessary to get there.

These are a few ideas to start on. I do not have all the answers. I am still trying to figure it out myself. But I know that I need to DO something. I cannot sit silent and allow my boys to go into this world without trying to change it for them. Please join me!

I will leave you with some thoughts from Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.

"The first thing I would like to mention is that there must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country. Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. And we will never solve the problem of racism until there is a recognition of the fact that racism still stands at the center of so much of our nation and we must see racism for what it is."

"We are not going to have the kind of society that we should have until the white person treats the negro right - not because the law says it but because it's natural because it's right and because the black man is the white man's brother."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."


"The Other America"
Speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Grosse Pointe High School - March 14, 1968
Read the speech here: http://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/


What are you doing to address racism, racial injustice and racial inequalities? Please share in the comments so that we can encourage one another!

1 comment:

Erin said...

It's not a prayer, (though it could be) I'm not in church, but reading those words makes me want to say, "AMEN!" Let it be so!