There was a lot of discussion about racism this weekend on my Twitter feed. It made me uncomfortable, so I tried to avoid it. After all, I wasn't the one being racist. But then I remembered something I learned through the Institute for Healing Racism: anyone who has reaped the benefits of white privilege cannot help but hold onto some racism. And like addiction, healing from that racism is a lifelong effort; it cannot be cured after a couple of workshops.
I also learned that it is not enough to simply act non-racist. Ongoing healing requires a commitment to being anti-racists - to calling out and fighting racism whenever and wherever it is encountered. The movie 42, a dramatic telling of the story of Jackie Robinson, provides a good example. [Warning - spoilers!] Several of Jackie's teammates go from acting like racists (signing a petition stating they will not play with a black man) to non-racists (at least keeping their racism to themselves while others verbally attack Jackie) to anti-racists (who call out the racism and literally stand with Jackie to show solidarity).
Being anti-racists can be tricky, though. Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, is attacking racism head-on by signing Jackie. However, because Rickey is acting from a position of power and privilege, he appears to be using Jackie, not working with him (remembering this is a movie's portrayal of actual events). Is this still an example of racism, however unintentional it might be?
I watched 42 last night, and along with everything else, it caused me to do some soul-searching. What can I do to address the racism that is going on right now, especially in education? One of the reasons the whole racism discussion makes me uncomfortable is that I do not have the answer to this question. And the fact that I expect to know how to make someone else's life better suggests I might also be thinking that I know best - from a place of power and privilege.
I do not want to think that I have to have the solution to be a part of the solution. Consequently, I am asking my friends and colleagues who did not grow up with white privilege to help me by telling me what I can do to help and support them through the racism they are experiencing. I have heard people of color describe the process of teaching people like me about the racism they face as exhausting and I do not want to contribute to that. But if there is something to do, something to read, something to think about, I want to go back to being anti-racist and helping myself and my community to heal from this evil.