Tonight my word for racial justice is “whatever”. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way, but rather in the “I don’t know everything so I’ll leave it open-ended” way.
Tabitha and I went to the gala for Border Crossers in Brooklyn, an amazing organization that trains educators in racial justice. As part of the program, they did an exercise where they asked everyone to share based on a prompt. The prompt was “I want to disrupt racism because…” Our group discussed the dangers of NOT disrupting racism, from continued oppression to violence. When they asked for people to share, the room was quiet. One person shared her response eloquently about the need to disrupt the deep-rooted origins of racial violence.
They then asked someone who identifies as White to respond. Again, silence. Being unafraid to get up in front of a group (I am a clown after all), I took the mic and said “I want to disrupt racism to change my relative comfort as a white man to…whatever.” As one person said, I started off strong, but didn’t stick the landing. Some folks in the room laughed, but especially among this group of educators and racial justice superstars, it didn’t feel like a strong point to end on. I had plenty to say, but I ended on “whatever”. The whole point is that I don’t have answers for the messy conversations about race, racial justice and white, male dominance. I don’t want to dictate what happens after I’ve admitted my white privilege. I don’t want to dictate what relative comfort looks like for people of color, what a disruption of white dominance looks like. I’ve had a strong, articulate voice my whole life (though nobody has ever had to call me articulate) and in this scenario I intentionally did not stick the landing. I was not strong. In this room, I did not have the dominant voice, nor should I. My whatever involved listening, acting with consciousness and being open to learning, failing and building again.
I do not know what NOT having white dominance is like. I don’t know what it’s like to have darker skin. I don’t know what other people’s “whatevers” look like. To find out what others are thinking, I must first admit my privilege and be ready to shut up, listen, and take action to support those without it.
That is my whatever. What’s yours?
To learn more about the awesome work Borders Crossers is doing to disrupt racism, click here.