My best friend Caryn is a 2x breast cancer survivor who lights up a room. She has faced much adversity and yet continues to be force of positivity and hope in the world. She has taught me a lot of things, but her deeply held belief that small steps can lead to big change is the most significant.
This advice rings especially true as my personal racial injustice awakening has begun. Living in Minneapolis and watching the George Floyd tragedy unfold in real-time, my heart was grieving and my blood was boiling both at the same time. I was outraged at the injustice, yet I found myself almost paralyzed at what exactly I could do to help.
Through the grace of God I was convicted and shown how I can become part (a real part) of the solution. I wasn't new to social justice, but my attention was on other social inequities. It is obvious to me now how unhelpful that was. As I began to educate myself on the racial inequalities for Black Americans, it became clear how ignorant I was and there is much I can do. These realizations triggered a lot of shame, but my focus now is on moving forward.
As with all moments of great awakening, you have a choice. Stay where you are or move forward differently. I choose to move forward differently.
What does that mean for me? It means a lot of things. First, it means I'm acknowledging and admitting that my silence has been part of the problem. Second, it means I'm committing myself to a life-long journey of justice and equity. And finally, while I still wish I could turn back time on my actions, I'm forgiving myself for my ignorance and I'm starting fresh with actions that will help.
To that end, below are the small steps I'm taking to becoming anti-racist.
joined an anti-racist learning group
A leader from my church created a group for white people to grow together to become anti-racists. In her first post, she made it clear what the mission of the group is:
This group is for white people who want to do the work of becoming anti-racist within a community of other white people who want to do the work of becoming anti-racist. This group is for white people because black people and other POC should not have to spend one drop more of their intellectual powers, emotional energy, or patience educating us about racism.
watching and reading to educate
There are many resources available to help educate oneself on becoming anti-racist. Part of the learning journey is to dig in and educate yourself because putting in the work is always where personal growth comes from.
To that end, I'm going to add more anti-racist books and movies to my reading and viewing lists. For books, I'm starting with anti-racist books to read as curated by Ibram X. Kendi. For movies, I'm staring with anti-racist movies to watch from Oprah magazine.
educating my kids and helping my community
As a mother, I see it as my job (in partnership with my husband) to talk to, educate and support our children in becoming anti-racist. Doing this will help them become educated on the inequities and also understand sooner than I did how they can be part of the solution.
We are going to do this in two ways. First, we are going to include them in our personal learning journal and have active conversations on the topic. We are also going to ensure they are alongside us helping volunteer in ways that will help Black communities and other communities of color.
putting my money where my mouth is
I rarely speak of my giving philosophy publicly mostly because I was raised to share your financial blessings, but to keep your actions private. In the event our giving strategy might help others, I am sharing it.
Our giving strategy is two pronged. We will continue to support closing the gap on socio and economic disparities between white and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) both nationally and locally (for me that is Minneapolis-St. Paul) with larger financial donations. In addition to making those donations, we've decided to get even more intentional about where our day-to-day dollars are spent. What this means is that we are going to be more explicit about seeking out BIPOC businesses for day-to-day needs since small amounts of money over time add up.
If you are white and feeling stuck, paralyzed, or just wondering what to do right now, I offer up my Caryn's wise words to take a small step of action. The first small step is often the hardest, but each step can lead to more and more steps and bigger change. Together, we can end racism and inequality.