Thank you to all who have left comments or reached out directly to me after my last post. It really meant a lot to hear your words of support and encouragement. Having been married previously, I can’t say this is my first time at this particular rodeo. Though, after spending 20 years with someone, it is an adjustment and while adjustments aren’t always bad, human nature and ego grapple with change much like a petulant child. Yet I continue to trust that things will unfold as they are meant to unfold and that the best days are still ahead and that through the uncomfortable and even dark moments, it’s those moments that make the good ones even sweeter.
The theme of change figures heavily in my life, both personally and professionally these days. While I have spent years commenting on racism and race related matters both in this space and in various publications, it’s only been in the last two years that matters of race went from the personal to the professional. In my role as the executive director at Community Change Inc., I spend a lot of time talking and meeting with people who have spent far more time than I working for racial justice.
It is far too easy to read the daily news and feel that the wheels of progress on race won’t ever turn, especially in light of the news that experts found the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the hands of law enforcement was justified. Then we add in the countless numbers of named and unnamed people of color who have died unjustly in recent years or the data that economic injustice lives at the crossroads of racial injustice, and one might concede that we won’t ever have a racially just world.
Yet today, on this day in the United States where legally we celebrate Christopher Columbus and his “discovery” of America, it is clear that the winds of change are indeed picking up. When I was a little kid, I remember thinking that Columbus didn’t sound like a nice guy. After all, how do you discover land that is already occupied and call it your own? In my family, that was called stealing and was rewarded with a swift swat on the butt. Yet Columbus and his “discovery” changed the lives of many and we live with the legacy of his work even today.
However, while we still legally celebrate this man and his heinous actions, increasingly in communities across America, people are asking that we end the practice of celebrating this man and instead honor our indigenous brothers and sisters. It may take time before we fully do away with Columbus Day and instead celebrate Indigenous People Day, but we are heading down the right road.
Twenty years ago, our gay, lesbian, bissexual and transgendered brothers and sisters were still heavily closeted and while transgender men and women are still facing numerous hurdles, the fact that Janet Mock and Laverne Cox are household names and Caitlyn Jenner was just named woman of the year speaks to the progress we are making.
When you are on the receiving end of injustice day in and day out, change can’t come fast enough. As a Black woman with Black children, I want change yesterday. I want to know a world where I don’t have to worry every time my son gets in the car. I want to know that my daughter won’t internalize the silent but somehow all too loud voice that still lingers in the air and tells her that she is not as good as white girl. Hell, I want a world that when my family goes out and we don’t fear being called niggers.
However, for all the criticism that I do have when it comes to how people of color and other marginalized people are treated, I know the needle is moving, albeit slowly. But it’s not about the fantasy post-racial world that some folks claimed had arrived when we elected our first Black president. It’s about the fact that, increasingly, white Americans are starting to connect the dots and recognize that we aren’t all treated the same. It’s about the fact that mainstream publications are now acknowledging that the ghettos that far too many people of color linger in isn’t due to a lack of work ethics and loose morals but by schemes designed by those in power who created a two-tier system that allowed one group to thrive while the other barely survived.
Increasingly, even in the whitest of spaces conversations are being had about race and while there are still plenty of white folks happy to stay in the silo of whiteness and not look deeply, growing numbers of white folks are willing to look deeper. As the head of an organization that has existed with the goal of getting white people to look at racism, our work has become normalized as we field calls from folks all over who, in the wake of the legalized slaughter of Black people, want to know what can they do.
So while the wheels of change are going a tad slowly and the chances are that none of us who are currently inhaling and exhaling will see a truly racially inclusive world, the fact is that we are moving toward it and we need to acknowledge that the winds of racial justice are starting to pick up. Now we just have to keep that energy flowing by unlearning what is harmful and committing to doing all that we can in our sphere to shift the needle for racial equity. Change isn’t always easy but it does happen.
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