OK. I’m going to be more specific. People who look like me, like most of you will read this, have failed. We as white people have failed to end racism. We could have, but we quit. It got too hard so we walked away. I’m watching a four part documentary by Dr. Henry Louis Gate Jr. about “Reconstruction“. It’s about the period after the Civil War. We’ve all heard about at least some of it from our high school history classes. The reality is that we haven’t heard enough. It got too hard, so we quit part way through. We, white people, quit on the former slaves that we had fought to free. We quit on equality. It got hard, we walked away, went home. It was followed by a period known as “Redemption”. Those confederate memorial statues in southern states? Part of “Redemption” and restoring “white pride” in the prewar south. “Redemption” included creation and the rise of the KKK. It was about Jim Crow, violence, lynching, and more. It lead to mass murders of Blacks in cities like Tulsa, OK and Wilmington, NC. Both were white people killing black people because they were successful and doing well. Neither would have happened had we not quit on Reconstruction.
The failures run deep and long. Even things that we see as a successes haven’t worked out so well. Yes, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed some things. Lynchings don’t happen like they used to. But can we feel good? I don’t think (pick a name to fill in here, the first that came to mind for me was Trayvon Martin) can. We feel like we’ve done something yet racism and hate march on. The civil rights movement on the 1950’s and 60’s lead to Richard Nixon and his “Southern Strategy”, his idea of using code words for racism – like “law and order”, of reaching out to hate to support him and the Republican Party. It’s exactly what Donald Trump has relied on for years. Why does it work? Because we got lazy and haven’t followed through. We think we’ve “done” something, but we have not done enough.
Many of you know that I go out three times a week holding various Black Lives Matter signs. Some of you even know why. The reason why is pretty simple: we, like I said before, white people have failed miserably in the fight against and to end racism. How? Because we show up, do a little, and walk away. Afterwards the reality is that nothing has changed. How many of you went to a Black Lives Matter protest after George Floyd was murdered and went home feeling good having “done something”. Have you done anything since then? The reality is our protests, frankly most of them, likely even what I’m doing, really do nothing to create change. So I stand out there to remind me, to remind us, that showing up once and going home changes nothing. Racism, hate, bigotry continue. So I stand to remind. I’m doing more, that list is for another time. So why write now? To offer a challenge to do more. First, read the book at the link on the image below. Don’t let the title scare you. There is a difference between “white supremacy” and being a “white supremacist”. The book is a challenge not only from me, rather more importantly, from the author, Layla Saad, to look inside ourselves and understand who we are, how we contribute to the continuance of racism, why we don’t act, and why we need to.
Something to note: one of the things I get asked is why I don’t go hold my signs in Black communities like Boston’s Roxbury. A Black person would never ask that, only someone who is white. Because any Black person knows that the effects of racism are in communities like Roxbury, they are frankly everywhere a Black person lives. The effects, not the causes. The causes come from white communities, not just because we don’t stop it, but because race and racism were created to justify slavery and have continued to keep white people at the top of a hierarchy. I do it here because the problem is here and in communities like mine, like ours.