As I think about what I can do to help eradicate the racism that has plagued this country since its founding, I am coming at change from multiple directions, from the micro to the macro. This means looking first at myself, then my community, my county (including my local police force) and the country.
This is the first in a series of blog posts that reflect some of my thinking and research I've done since the murder of George Floyd. These are actions we all can take to end racism and discrimination.
STEP 1 - LOOK IN THE MIRROR
As I wrote in my Facebook post, I always thought that not being a racist was enough. I no longer think that way. The first change is to become an anti-racist. That means saying aloud, “I am an anti-racist.”
STEP 2 - TEST YOURSELF FOR HIDDEN BIASES
One of the most prominent tests for hidden biases was developed by Harvard University. If you're interested in taking the test, you can follow this link:
STEP 3 – BECOME UNCOMFORTABLE
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, an Iowa school teacher wanted to teach her third graders about discrimination. I encourage you to watch her Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise from the 1960's on either YouTube or PBS.
Then I encourage you to watch an adult re-enactment of this exercise on a 1992 episode of Oprah Winfrey.
STEP 4 – JOURNAL
Use your journal (or begin a journal) to record experiences in which your implicit biases drove your behaviors. What would you do differently now?
Write about the implicit biases you have. Where did they come from? How did they originate?
What different messages can you write now?
Make a list of actions you will take to become anti-racist.
STEP 5 – ENGAGE AND LISTEN
Reach out to black people, Asian Americans, Native American Indians, members of the LGBT community. Initiate conversations. Ask questions. Learn what it means to live in their skin. Open your mind and heart. Listen without judgments. Listen without becoming defensive. Just listen.
Listen to Trevor Noah talk about the black experience on this video:
STEP 6 – PARTICIPATE
The semester-long assignment in my Racism class in graduate school was to join and/or participate with a group about which we held a bias. Join their activities, interact with their members, learn as much as possible about them. Our entire class grade was based on the daily log we were required to keep and the paper we wrote at the end documenting what we had done and how our lives had been impacted by it. The assignment and the learnings from it were eye-opening and transformative for me. I invite you to do the same . . . only this time you won't have to write a paper.
STEP 7 – BECOME THE STUDENT
White people are not and cannot be experts in being black. But we can be open to being taught. Take the time to study the history of slavery and violence against blacks and the origins of white supremacy that have been a blot on the face of our nation.
I published one list of books on my Sarah Birnbach - writer and author Facebook page which was copied from a post from the National Women's Book Association. The following link will take you to additional books, videos, movies, articles and other resources for becoming anti-racist.
STEP 8 – TURN TO FAITH
If you are a person of faith, here are two quotes to help guide you:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
"Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it." (Psalm 34:14)
And the quote, which is often attributed to Edmund Burke:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing."
I consider myself a good person. But I have done nothing (until now) to stand up against racism. If you're interested in continuing this conversation in the weeks to come, and learning more about what each of us can do to fight racism and discrimination, please follow me on Facebook at Sarah Birnbach - writer and author. Consider sharing this blog with others. I look forward to walking with you on the long and hard road to wipe out systemic racism.