Stirring up the future
Imagine, if you will, that you are preparing to make a delicious soup or sauce that has been passed down from your grandparents, to your parents, and now to you. You recall being in the kitchen when your grandmother performed magical acts with ingredients that seemed like nothing on their own, but when mixed with the others, an aroma pervaded so strongly that you couldn't help seek out the source of such sensory intrigue.
Now, imagine, that that soup or sauce you are cooking is something else entirely. What may have been the source of great comfort for you and those you loved, may have been detrimental to another family. Another family that lived different than you. Another family that looked different than you. That family did not have access to the same ingredients you so easily took for granted as you carefully measured and dropped them into a warming pot. Instead, they settled for far less and when they did attempt to seek out the same ingredients you are using right now, they may have been physically harmed, harassed, or even worse - killed.
That soup is your life experience. Those ingredients are all the things you take advantage of, the privileges available to you that make your life vibrant and fulfilling. The recipe has been handed down for as far back as your family lines can be traced. You've never thought much of it because it's what you know. It's your "normal" and you've never thought how your normal could be someone else's nightmare. You didn't know.
This is racism in America. Those of us that are white have lived with assumptions. If we were minding our own business, living a life similar to our grandparents and parents, we never thought we were causing harm. We never thought we were contributing to racism by not acknowledging or maybe even truly understanding that our privilege was a result of messed up systems that were placing black people at a disadvantage.
Coming to terms with the roots of colonialism and how I've grown up with blinders on, I see now that all Indigenous people have been pressed down while I've been reaching up.
I did not grow up in a house that discussed what to do if I ever encountered a police officer, but I bet Breonna Taylor did. I'm a 41 year old white woman and I've been pulled over by a police officer exactly twice in my life, both times for speeding, and both times when I was a young driver in my home town. There was one time in my 30s when my car broke down and I had two police officers show up that pushed my car to the nearest gas station and demonstrated sincere concern for my safety. I never once thought about how the color of my skin was at play.
By comparison, black drivers are 20 percent more likely to be pulled over by a police officer than a white driver. A study done in May 2020 by NYU also found that black drivers were 1.5 to 2 times more often than white drivers to be searched, while they were actually less likely to be carrying anything illegal. During the two times that I was pulled over for speeding, I was never searched, nor asked any questions at all that suggested that I might be guilty of anything other than speeding. I encourage you to check out The Stanford Open Policing Project to learn more about their efforts to investigate and improve interactions between police and the public.
In the 2017 film The Hate U Give we see that growing up black means conversations around the dinner table about how to act when a police officer pulls you over because it will happen and you might die. These conversations started early, before children could even conceive of driving, because in all actuality, the black youth were also being accosted while riding their bicycles.
I never had a conversation with my parents about what to do when a police officer pulled me over. I am sure they told me that I would be required to show my drivers license and proof of insurance, but that's it. There was nothing beyond that. They knew the police were on my side. They were simply doing their job and keeping the streets safe. That is what I was raised to believe.
As we await the verdict of the trial of Derek Chauvin on murder charges for the killing of George Floyd, another young black man was killed by a police officer. His name was Daunte Wright. I can't imagine that anyone is able to look in the mirror these days and not see that the color of their skin matters a whole hell of a lot to what experiences they will have that day.
For centuries our institutions have subjugated the black body. The white body has been the beneficiary of great privilege that has been passed down, like a recipe, without much thought of any consequences that might be incurred by another body that looks different from our own. If I'm not doing any direct harm to someone else, surely I am not culpable of anyone else's suffering. Right? Until I decided to educate myself and read more, listen more, follow people that don't look like me, and ask them questions, I assumed I was doing no harm. Now I know I was wrong. An apology means nothing unless followed by action to improve upon the behavior that led to the apology.
I am writing this as a sort of apology and ask that you extend this and share it. Are you starting to feel culpable for what is wrong in America? Collectively, we need to do this work right now. Not everyone will be called to protest and that's okay, but we each have our own unique power that can and needs to be used right now to make necessary change in our country. If you are feeling disempowered by the enormity of what needs to be done, please know that what you consume in the news, media, and the people you interact with matters. The choices you make each day on who you support in businesses, speaking up in conversations or intervening when you witness even seemingly small acts of harm done to oppress others, is important and necessary. Never doubt that you are significant and necessary to the change that needs to happen.
Here is a website that will empower you with tools in which YOU can begin to create a new recipe that changes what you hand down to future generations. Together we can all stir up a new and improved future.