In light of the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this post isn’t about schools. It’s about something even more important and vital to us ever getting to a place where we can make schools better for every child in America.
There is a special kind of cognitive dissonance when on the very day I head away for a few long awaited days on a lake in Maine, Charlottesville, Virginia is under siege by white supremacists and anti-Semitic people, mostly men, who have us all wondering how this can be happening in 2017.
Except it isn’t all of us who are wondering. It’s those of us who haven’t been the victims of discrimination because of the color of our skin who are most surprised. Black and brown folks have been telling us forever that they see and feel racism all the time. And while we may have believed them, we didn’t have to see it. Or feel the pain of it. Or explain it to our children as a way of protecting them from harm.
You see, I can quite literally take a vacation from racism because I’m a white mom of three who lives in a suburb and drives a minivan. I get polite warnings when I have a tail light out or make an illegal left hand turn. I reach into the glove compartment or under my seat while the police approach my car and to this day, no one has ever escalated or screamed or pointed a gun in my face. I get profiled as someone who isn’t a threat. Or dangerous.
I did nothing to deserve that profile.
I can’t think of a more quintessential example of privilege than being able to take a vacation from the hate that is on on the march in Charlottesville this weekend. And the truth is, I don’t want to stop thinking about it. In fact, I want to make more people think about it. The images coming out of Virginia are a huge wake up call to all of us who haven’t raised our voices enough, as white Americans, to condemn and fight against the hate that others who look like us feel emboldened to spew in the public square and on television in 2017. The hatred that would drive someone to drive a car, full speed, into a crowd of people (photo below). We are so quick to rail against ISIS without a second thought so how is this any different? ISIS plows vehicles into crowds of people too. ISIS hates Christians and these white supremacists in Virginia hate Jews. And Blacks.
Yet there is a silence this weekend that is deafening from those who have been so loud after other forms of protests and acts of terror. Those who couldn’t stop talking about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem now seem to have nothing to say. How can that be?
I don’t pretend to know the answers but I do know that white America must be a much louder, braver, and stronger force in standing up to the hate and racism that has always existed and is now bubbling up into public view where we can’t pretend we don’t see it.
Let’s not avert our eyes. Let’s not try to explain it away. Let’s have the courage to call it what it is even when the moment is an uncomfortable one. Let’s come together to put pressure on our lawmakers to actually take action that will begin to chip away at the systems and institutions that continue to discriminate against our fellow Americans.
And then let’s imagine how lonely and betrayed we’d feel it were us and our families who were under attack and nobody – not even our friends – showed up to stand beside us and fight back.
We’ve got to be better. Let’s start now.
And let’s say a prayer for Charlottesville too.