It's been a while since I've written to you all about race. And I am committed to keeping this conversation going. Please do not disregard this message because it may challenge some feelings or beliefs that you have. If it makes you feel uneasy at all, please talk with me. I am writing this to stimulate a conversation and not to shut out my family and friends.
I want to start with a couple of definitions.
Nonracist - Being inactive and promoting the status quo
Antiracist - Actively supporting antiracist policy through your actions or expressing antiracist ideas.
Over the last 6 months, I have been reading a book called "How to Be an Antiracist" with my district's leadership team. The book focuses on the premise that your actions are always supporting or opposing racist practices or policies. There is no middle ground of simply being "not racist." Everyone at times supports a racist practice or idea and the next moment they may support an antiracist practice or idea. Many times we support racist ideas with good intentions.
An example of this is in one of our current presidents recent tweets "I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood... Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!" While many Americans may agree with this and be excited about our housing prices going up, at the core, this is a racist action. This was a repeal of the fair housing act which was created to counteract suburban neighborhoods from excluding people of color from them. There are many other parts of this tweet that are racist as well, but I chose to focus on the fair housing act.
My point in this example is we can go through our lives, raising our children, just to live with the status quo. For many of my family and friends, that would entail supporting agendas, policies, beliefs that would not give my children, or my wife a truly fair chance (racist policies, agendas, beliefs). Our constitution says that my children and wife are only 2/3rds of a person simply because they have more melanin in their skin than I do.
There is one justifiable reason (racism) that:
black women are 3 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.
black people make up 33% of the prison population and white people only make up 30% (while black people only make up 12% of the national population) Pew Research Article
black people are 10% less likely to graduate from high school compared to their white peers. NCES Statistics. Also, for the record, Minnesota and Wisconsin are 2 of the worst states for black graduation rates.
The reasons for these statistics are simply because someone physically looks different. They have more melanin. Black women may frequently have different underlying medical conditions due to 400 years of racism. That would make anyone's blood pressure higher. They still have human DNA just like me. Black people don't commit crimes at higher rates than whites. The justice system just penalizes them differently (please watch the documentary 13th. It's currently free to watch on youtube.) Black kids don't have less capacity to learn simply because of their melanin count. They are tested with standardized tests written primarily by white people, educated by 79% white teachers, and only 2% black teachers (NCES Statistics). I never had a teacher who didn't look like me until I was in college. I asked my colleagues about this recently and most of them never had a teacher who looked like them until high school at the earliest.
Just because it's been three and a half months since George Floyd died, doesn't mean that the conversation about racism in America should be set aside. It doesn't mean that once again I'll/you justify why I/you don't agree with the saying "Black Lives Matter". Keep this conversation going, please, for the sake of my family. If it is still tough to say that Black Lives Matter, I'd ask you to dig deep down and ask why. I'm not saying black lives matter more than white lives, more than blue (police) lives. I'm saying black lives matter too, equally, as much as every other life. I remember trying to rationalize and politicize the phrase Black Lives Matter by justifying what part of the black lives matter movement I disagreed with. But in the end, there is nothing about saying that Black Lives Matter that I disagree with. They simply do matter to me. I hope they do for you as well.
Here are some helpful articles, short videos, books if you're interested in doing some digging on your own. I hope you are! Let's talk!
The difference between being not racist and being antiracist - short video (6 min)
How to raise anti-racist babies (article)
Anti-Racist Baby - kids board book by Ibram X. Kendi
How to Be an Antiracist - by Ibram X. Kendi