This is my all-time favorite protest sign.
you have it.
“Assume you have the disease and don’t spread it.” To do so, you have to change your behavior.
You may be thinking:
“But I’M not a racist.”
Here’s the good/bad news. In this country, racism is something you’re born with. It’s passed down through four centuries of history—a history of brutality, of pain, of indignities, of exclusion, of resentment, of hate, of remorse, of horror, of shame, and finally, of not knowing how to get past it.
Where’s the good news in all that? It’s not your fault. There’s no way you could have escaped that, living in this country, so there’s no shame in admitting that you participate in racism.
The bad news is, you still have to change your behavior. We do have to get along equitably and repair the long-standing wounds if we care about this country and our future together.
The point is not really whether you’re a racist, a non-racist, or an anti-racist. It’s not about establishing a fixed identity on the racism spectrum and feeling secure in that identity. Each of us has a choice in every moment about how to be and how to act, whether we will in that moment act against racism or help solidify it. The more we each work to dismantle it, the more quickly we can regain our sense of wholeness.
If you’re white, you may be thinking:
“Why do I need to change? I’m comfortable with the way things are. I have black friends and we get along fine.”
Because George Floyd. Breanna Taylor. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Ahmaud Arbery. Trayvon Martin—and countless others. Because of the daily indignities that your neighbors have to deal with, that you can easily shrug off as not that important. Because of the daily fear of being shot and killed for no reason. Because of all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways, life is stacked against people of color in this country, making life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness an empty promise for so many.
The callous and undeserved death of George Floyd was the last straw on the backs of those who have already suffered way too long and way too much.
It should be a wake-up call to each of us.
If we insist on continuing to turn our heads away from these injustices, none of us will ever be free from the disease of racism. If we cannot stop and make the effort to learn how to break the habit of thinking that racism is not my problem, learn to listen to our neighbors and hear what injustices they’ve been dealing with, learn to stand up for them, stand by them, speak up for them, then we’ll never be free of the disease.
While we all may consciously or unconsciously engage in racist behaviors, we also have a yearning to do what’s right and good. The more we learn to see and recognize racism in the world and in the ways we’ve internalized it, the more we can check our behavior and start transforming the legacies of hurt and injustice with love.
We can do this. And the reward is a just society for everyone. It’s our chance to finally cleanse our collective souls of 400 years of shame and sorrow.
Think about how freeing that will feel!
Check out these local resources and get involved to make a change: NAACP Media Area Branch (Facebook), Media Fellowship House (Facebook), Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and the new Delco Working Group of SURJ, Fellowship of Urban/Suburban Engagement (FUSE, Facebook), Delco Coalition for Prison Reform (DelcoCPR), Chester Made (Facebook), Chester’s Making a Change Group (Facebook).