Hi. My name is Erin Lawrence. I’m a white 36-year-old mom in Oklahoma City and I’m committed to being anti-racist. As a white woman, I will admit I was hesitant about being one of the voices featured here. I have zero desire to overshadow a POC voice, and I will never claim to be an expert on anti-racism or racial reconciliation. I also know that our POC brothers and sisters are tired and it is not (and never has been) their job to teach us.
I am learning every day, alongside many of you, how to be a better ally and I will forever be honest and open about what that never-ending journey looks like for me as a mom and as a member of the Oklahoma City community.
Although Black people carry the burden of injustice on a daily basis, anti-racism work is not the responsibility of Black people. White supremacy is white people’s responsibility to disrupt. It’s time to listen. Jumping in to “fix” or lead right now is not our role as we begin our anti-racism journey.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t being called to action — it just means our posture right now should be of awareness, humility and flexibility as we learn. Being kind isn’t enough. Having Black friends isn’t enough. Not being racist isn’t enough.
We have to recognize our implicit bias. We have to be ANTI-RACIST. This isn’t politics; it’s people’s lives. And it’s not something I have always gotten right, but right now my posture is humility, self-reflection and consuming as much information as I can from my Black leaders and neighbors. I want to use my privilege to amplify POC voices, to lovingly come alongside my white brothers and sisters and call us to be better. To do better. I’m finally listening.
I grew up just outside of St Louis, so when Michael Brown was murdered by a police officer in Ferguson 5-and-a-half years ago, it was a blow that hit too close to home. There were protests, marches and people spoke out. I was saddened and angry for my Black brothers and sisters. And honestly [and regrettably] that’s about as far as my reaction went.
I see now that my privilege shielded me from any real ownership or change. I had convinced myself that even though this was tragic, I hadn’t caused this, so what could I do? I thought: I am a nice person, I love people of all colors, I know I’m not [overtly] racist, so even though this was devastating to my community, as a white person I was quick to move on. I was blinded to the fact that I was part of the problem. I *am* part of the problem.
Let me say now, “I’m sorry I’m late.” I’m showing up now. I WILL NOT look up in 5-and-a-half years to see that I just moved on. I will speak up for Black lives because they not only matter, they are worthy and beautiful and valued. I will not return to a place of apathy and comfort. This unrest we are feeling right now is holy and necessary, and if you ask me … it’s about damn time.
So what can we do / what am I doing?
Good first steps:
- Protest injustice in your community. The Black Lives Matter global movement has peacefully showed up over the past several weeks protesting in all 50 states and in over 50 countries on all continents except Antarctica.
- Post on social media. Speak out publicly against injustice. You may not realize how many people are actually listening. And your silence is deafening.
- Be a part of a faith community where the leader renounces injustice and racism, both from the podium as well as in their everyday lives. Again, this isn’t politics, it’s people’s lives.
Harder (but essential) next steps:
- Commit to spending 10% of your monthly budget on Black-owned businesses. The problems we’re facing in society are structural and the lack of wealth in the Black community is the cause of many of the issues we face. Supporting Black businesses will create wealth and ultimately change the power dynamic that has fostered so many injustices.
- Recognize your privilege. Dismantle the innate and underlying racist teachings that have been ingrained in who you are and in the foundation of our society. If you don’t believe they are there, look deeper. Don’t be defensive. DO THE WORK. We can do hard things.
- Educate yourself (not by asking your POC friends to educate you). See list of anti-racism resources available below. DO THE WORK. We can do hard things.
- Have the tough conversations with friends and family. Real change cannot happen unless we get deeply personal, honest, uncomfortable and brave with the people we love: our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends and especially our children. See ‘books my littles are reading’ below. DO THE WORK. We can do hard things.
- And last, but not even close to least: VOTE! Amplify the voices of People of Color and those who stand up for them. Your voice matters; use it for good.
You will continue to mess up regarding racism. So continue to be teachable, be open to correction from POC and vigilantly monitor yourself for defensiveness and white fragility. You never ‘arrive’ as an ally; you must continually *practice* allyship. – Jackson King
And to all Black, Indigenous and People of Color:
I do not say these things in hopes of absolution or forgiveness or for you to make me feel better or less guilty, but simply and humbly because you need to hear this from more white people and because I mean this from the bottom of my heart.
I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that saying I’m sorry has never been enough. I am choosing action this time. I’m listening this time. I’m actively dismantling my own prejudices this time. Action is what is meaningful right now. I will do the work. I see you. I hear you. I value you. I honor you. I celebrate you. You matter. Your life matters. Your feelings matter. Your fears matter. Your anger matters. Your hopes matter. Your dreams matter.
Y O U matter.
POC-created resources / People to follow / Books my kids are reading:
- Austin Channing Brown, @austinchanning — Author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
- Be The Bridge, @beabridgebuilder — Racial Literacy Organization
- Check Your Privilege, @ckyourprivilege — Books, podcasts and other antiracism resources
- Equal Justice Initiative, @eji_org — Organization working to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment and racial inequality
- Faitth Brooks, @faitthb — Writer and activist
- Ibram X Kendi, @ibramxk — Author of How to be an Antiracist
- Luvvie Ajayi Jones, @luvvie — Author of I’m Judging You
- Rachel Cargle, @rachel.cargle — Teacher, storyteller and activist
- The Conscious Kid, @theconsciouskid
- Say Something! by Peter H Reynolds
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers
- A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
- New Kid by Jerry Craft
- The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson
- As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
- What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia C McKissack
Erin Lawrence is a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fan, loves Jesus, moms Jackson and Charlie and karaokes a mean Wilson Phillips. When she’s not leveraging the philanthropic arm of Oklahoma Shirt Company or curating her latest charcoal drawing or watercolor painting, you can find Erin writing/illustrating her first children’s book series. Erin’s passion for our local community continues to push her toward the parts of the city that most need love. Erin holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma, a Masters in Business Administration from Oklahoma Christian and occasionally her husband Justin’s hand. If you want to continue the conversation with Erin, she’d love to hear from you at ErinBethLawrence@Me.com.