With the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront of politics, I’ve spent hours re-evaluating my awareness of white privilege, systemic racism, and strategies for change.
Despite my internal discourse, up until this very moment I’ve stayed relatively silent in fear of saying the wrong thing, spreading misinformation, or unintentionally offending anyone. It’s that culture of fear that I want to touch on here, the one that has so many white people avoiding important conversations.
What I recently realized, is that I need to be wrong in order to learn how to be right. I must dare to speak up, make mistakes, learn from my ignorance, and repeat. Nobody is expected to be perfect; however, I do believe it’s my responsibility to educate myself, and I can’t do that while sitting back.
Though at times it’s easy to feel far removed from racism, I know that discrimination is still embedded into so much of modern life. As a result, I feel as though the only way to unlearn racial prejudices is first to admit them, then to dive into the history, the causes, and the repercussions of systemic oppression.
This said, I don’t think that actions need to be public, grandiose, or void of mistakes to be effective. In fact, I think that the most important thing to do right now is to dig deep, not out. And while I love seeing how passionate and mobilized my community has been, I don’t believe it’s enough to show up to a protest, cheer, then leave, just as the struggle to rebuild a foundation doesn’t end with a post, a share, or a like.
Ultimately, I believe that systemic issues require systemic change; deep-rooted, all-encompassing, soul-swallowing change. Change that begins with honest and uncomfortable conversations. Change that is derived from education: books, documentaries, and research.
I think that in order to begin the process of revolutionizing oppressive systems, matters must be taken beyond the echo chambers that reproduce opinions. Difficult conversations must be had with friends, family and neighbours. Votes, voices, and investments must be used to dig into the systems that need to be altered.
At the end of the day, though I recognize I have much left to learn, I’m no longer afraid to speak up for equality, for respect, and for love.