A former Teach for America corps member and 10th grade teacher in West Philadelphia provides her perspective on how we might reflect on racism and privilege.
If you are a white person struggling to find the right way to react to the murder of George Floyd, here are some thoughts.
First, I am not an expert. I only know what I have experienced. I joined the Teach for America corps and taught in a 10th grade classroom in West Philadelphia. My students taught me about oppression, diversity, privilege, and inclusion. I’ve seen firsthand what systemic racism and oppression can do to communities, families, and schools. I’ve seen firsthand what racism and oppression can do to a child.
As a white person, it is important now more than ever to find your place. I’ve spent years thinking about this.
If you are a white person, it’s time to think about your own privilege. When people talk about “white privilege” here’s what they mean:
White privilege does NOT mean you haven’t worked hard to get to where you are.
White privilege DOES mean that you have benefited from a system that continues to promote whiteness while oppressing people of color.
After lots of thought, here are my truths:
It is NOT my place, as a white person, to tell POC (People of Color) how to feel.
- It is not my place to tell POC how to mourn.
- I do not know what it’s like to be afraid to leave my house.
- I do not know what it’s like to feel like the police will target me.
- I do not know what it’s like to have a president promote the murderers of my brothers and sisters.
- I do not know what it’s like to see video after video of my brothers and sisters being lynched.
- It is my place to acknowledge this. It is my place to meet this trauma with love and support.
It is my place to NOT BE SILENT.
- POC have been fighting for themselves throughout all of history. Their shoulders are tired from bearing that weight.
- It is my place to use my privilege to speak up. To scream.
It is MY burden to self-critique. I have to evaluate the choices I’ve made in the past and the ones I will make in the future.
- I have to evaluate my own biases and actively work on them every single day.
- In order to do this, I will ask myself these questions:
- How am I like Central Park Amy? What biases did she present that I also have?
- What makes me uncomfortable regarding issues of social justice? Why am I feeling that way?
- In what ways am I engaging with other white people in discussions on their biases? In what ways do I shy away from those discussions? Why do I shy away from those?
- In what ways am I educating myself today? What books/articles/blogs/research have I read?
- In what ways am I promoting the voices of POC?
From here on forward I commit to: supporting the trauma of POC with love and support; to not being silent; and to engage in intense and purposeful introspection.
Who’s with me?