This week has been exceptionally messy, both for me personally in my healing from cancer journey, and in the much larger context of people absolutely fucking fed up with the cancer of continued mistreatment of our Black brothers and sisters in this country due to our inherently racist, white-supremacist systems of government, law enforcement, judiciary, and all the exceptional privileges that come with being born in a white-skinned body. Fed up with not being heard.
Still with me? Cool. Let’s go a little further.
I have taken my DNA test. I know that my genetic makeup is primarily Northern European, (48.5%) and the balance of my ancestry is Southern European (32.7%) with a smattering of Ashkenazi Jewish (.4%) Native American (5.8%) East Asian (.8%) and Sub-Saharan African (3.2%). The remaining 8.6% is scattered to the winds in traces and indistinguishable bits. Possibly alien, star-seed, angelic, or prehistoric. But if you didn’t know any of this, you’d look at me and just see another basic White person. Previously with gorgeous long platinum blonde hair, now with a shiny bald dome.
I don’t have to fear most of the places I visit or the daily activities I engage in because of the color of my skin. And if you are another basic White person like me, you don’t either. That’s the rule. That’s how this shit works. We know this, deep in our bones, even when we aren’t ready to admit it. Even when we can’t stomach what the truth of that means. Even when we wish and hope and pray that it just isn’t so, that we are the exception, that we really are GOOD, that we aren’t actually racist, that we “don’t see color” or that we are doing our work. We know.
AND… what if we want to do better? What if we want to see real change happen, and we want to see it happen in our lifetime? What if we are ready to face our millions of excuses head on? What if we are willing to focus on the Black people who are victims of our violence and our apathy? What if we are willing to be uncomfortable and ready to start GETTING MESSY and unpacking our culturally and familially ingrained biases, unearth our own seen and unseen racism, and actually create positive change? What if we are willing to put our ideals into action?
Healing from cancer is MESSY. The treatments, the recovery, are brutal and messy. I hope that you NEVER have to deal with it yourself, or watch someone you love go through it. If you have walked this road yourself, you know. I see you, and I love you.
Healing from racism is no less messy. The biggest difference is that every White person in the US has been infected with racism- think of it as a spectrum in which every damn one of us falls on, from ignorant & fragile to full-on White Supremacist. Some are completely poisoned and proudly rotting, while others aren’t even aware that they have been affected and go about their merry way, oblivious to the damage they are doing. Still others are painfully aware of their white privilege and are consciously doing the hard, messy, necessary work day after day.
It will be messy. It will be difficult. It will be awkward. It will be uncomfortable. It will be risky. We will make mistakes. Like, LOTS of mistakes. And, if we are willing to do this important and messy and necessary work within ourselves and within our families and within our schools and within our houses of worship and within our workplaces and within our communities and within our online spaces and within our law enforcement agencies and within our local and state and federal governments, if we are willing to make a phenomenal mess of the status quo- THEN we will begin to see the world change and become the beautiful, equitable-for-all utopia that we say we want it to be.
What to do next:
Take ONE action step towards becoming a person who is anti-racist. Then, take another. Repeat.
Here are some links to helpful resources that you can begin to use right away:
Thank you for reading and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable with this conversation. Thank you for being willing to face and unpack your unpleasant parts. Thank you for making the choice every day moving forward to do the hard, messy, necessary work of dismantling racism and the systems that uphold it. You’re not alone; I’m in it with you.