Every time one of these stories comes out, I immediately think of my brother, my son and my nephew.
The only *tiny* silver lining in all of this is the number of white friends I see posting, saying their names and calling racism for what it is. They are using their privilege to expose and educate their children, friends, families and colleagues. I’m thankful. They ask, “What can we do?” Here is what you can do to move words on Facebook into action:
- Educate and advocate. At every opportunity. On social media and in real life. You hear something, you say something.
- Call out implicit bias when you see it … you are with your friend, a black man walks by and she stiffens up. Say something. Kindly, without accusation.
- Call out microaggressions when you hear them …”Of course she’s a bad driver. She’s Asian.” Say something.
- Don’t stand by when you hear a racist joke because “that’s just how they are/grew up/are joking/have a black friend.” Say something.
- Don’t roll your eyes when you see a #blacklivesmatter post and sure as heck don’t reply with “all lives matter.” Sit and ask yourself why the hashtag exists.
- Teach your children about their privilege. Let them grow up always knowing what they can do to educate and advocate. Teach them how to support their black and brown friends, especially in the hard moments.
- Teach your friends about their privilege. Adults are harder because the word privilege automatically brings up thoughts of affluence. Explain to them privilege isn’t about money and there isn’t anything they did to have it. They were born with it. Let them know privilege, at its core, is power. Power that can be used for good. Privilege is recognizing their life might have been hard but their skin color didn’t make it harder.
- Police aren’t all bad, by far, and aren’t the only ones hurting the black community. It’s the central park Amy who knew what she was doing when she called the police on a black bird watcher, basically asking the police to come hurt him. Don’t condone or try to explain away such behavior. Call it for what it is.
I dread the day I have to start having these conversations with my sweet boy. But I will have them. That is the role a parent of a black child has. Note, I said parent of a black child, not a black parent. If you are a white parent of a black child, know your privilege will not extend to them. Do not kid yourself or turn a blind eye that your black child will be different. If anything, it is more important you have these conversations because they may not be exposed to the scenarios and messages in their everyday life.
My prayer is by the time my biracial (read: black, for those who think he won’t have it the same because he has light skin) boy is a black teen and then a black man, we have all done our part to educate and advocate and things will be a little different.
Kay Robinson is assistant vice president of student affairs at the University of Central Oklahoma, mom to 5-year-old Rex, a foster mom and an avid community volunteer. Find more articles, perspectives by people of color and local resources about race and racial injustice here.