Dwelling Place commits to acting as a force for change on the journey to racial healing
The murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day set off protests across the country. His death and the protests that followed have become the impetus for what appears to be a sea change of support for genuine reform in law enforcement. The video evidence of this event and many other similar incidents have forced white Americans to reconsider their paradigms about equal treatment under the law.
It should no longer be possible for white Americans to remain incredulous when their black and brown neighbors, colleagues, friends, and acquaintances describe a different experience than theirs when encountering our law enforcement and judicial systems. Neither should it be possible for white Americans to deny that race often becomes a weapon to call down law enforcement on people of color. The recent case in New York City, when a white female called down the police on a black, male birdwatcher, who simply asked her to place her dog on a leash, is a good example of this, captured on video.
Will all of what has happened in recent weeks make any difference? We hope so.
Perhaps the fact that so many white Americans have joined in recent protests over police brutality is evidence that empathy can turn into outrage and outrage into collective action for peaceful but meaningful systemic change to occur.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us, me and you, to find ways we can truly listen to those who have been first hand witnesses to and victims of systemic racism in their lives, and then do something with what we learn.
The message in Black Lives Matter is not a declaration that white lives do not matter or that whites do not have struggles in their lives. Rather it is a declaration that black lives have not mattered in the same way that white lives have mattered and the truth in that declaration is well documented in virtually every demographic of well-being, comparing black and brown Americans with white Americans.
Loud rebukes against the most explicit examples of racism are also no longer sufficient. We must learn to recognize and address the seemingly invisible, but no less insidious consequences that implicit racism has in creating racialized outcomes in employment, education, health and housing.
Racialized outcomes in law enforcement and the judicial system as well as access to banking services and credit, often translate into disparate impact and racialized outcomes for access to jobs, housing and educational opportunities as criminal history screening and credit are frequently a determinant in choosing winners and losers.
We must all work harder to understand how these seemingly neutral practices in screening for opportunity might be inherently flawed, a consequence of systemic racism. We must learn to see and understand these connections, especially since access to stable housing, post-secondary education and employment are key predictors of stability, advancement and wealth building for families in America.
White privilege and white fragility have served to keep white Americans largely oblivious to the problems faced each and every day by people of color and often too defensive to engage in a conversation about race. It is truly time for us to recognize that “WE” (Black, Brown and White) are the formidable change that is needed. WE must listen, more than hear. WE must learn to lead with the voices of others in our heart. WE must accept that while we cannot know all of the answers, that silence is not an option. WE must use our power, influence and presence as a force for change to eliminate racialized outcomes wherever they exist.
Maya Angelou inspires us "to be a blessing to someone...to be a rainbow in their clouds"
Tools and resources to understand and address
W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Racial Equity Resources
Kent County District Library: #weneeddiversebooks for All Ages
PSB: Racism in America-Explore films and new specials focused on race
Grand Rapid Public Library: Be a good ally
National Museam of African American History & Culture: Talking About Race
Racial Equity Tools: 2500+ tools that can help you create change in your community
Harvard Project Implicit Bias: Race Implicit Association Test