My own brand of narrow vision at work here: I’m not a big coffee shop person; I go rarely and usually when I have a deadline that I have put off until I can’t bear it anymore and I need a change of venue to focus. I’ve always thought this pastime was a European and Middle Eastern activity. So the other day when I was in CC’s on Esplanade working through a deadline, I was surprised I was the only white person in the whole place. Who knew?
I sat down at a window table and a woman I know came in, but I couldn’t recall her name, so I just smiled in greeting. She sat behind me and soon two older gentlemen joined her and they began talking about their organization that is helping to economically empower black owned businesses. I know this because I am a consummate eavesdropper. I actually was going to approach the woman and ask what they are doing to see if it in any way aligned with my efforts, but I never found my in and my friend had come to meet me.
It’s an odd phenomenon that once you become aware of something, you start seeing the signposts of that awareness everywhere and certainly that is the hope of anyone who is working in this country to end racism. I met a woman whose creative soul brought her to write and perform plays on runaway slaves (Nancy Dawson), I met a woman whose son was killed in gang violence who stepped up and began helping gangs in prison and going around the country creating a healing quilt (Clemmie Greenlee), and a friend introduced me to a woman who is doing similar work in Chicago (Kara Wright) and she and I are going to speak on Wednesday.
But this morning, I had a truly wonderful Skype session with a similarly like-minded woman, Jennifer Chandler. She is a PhD candidate at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwauke and her thesis is to study white mothers of biracial daughters or sons and cull descriptions of their interactions with the teachers and principals at the children’s school. She is pursuing her Doctorate degree in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service.
She was interviewing me, but in the end, she helped me realize a few things that were missing from my own work. My goal is to primarily work with white parents of white children and at issue has been how to get them interested in this topic when “they think” it doesn’t affect their lives. She gave me ample and compelling reasons why it does matter to them. I also want to work with the LGBT community because they overindex towards transracial adoption and receive no training for that experience.
When you align yourself with your core values, people come into your life to help prod you forward, to carry you towards your destiny, and what’s great is that I have met so many wonderful black people working on racism either via economic empowerment, education, healing, awareness, but for me, what is soul satisfying are the white people I’m meeting who are staring privilege in the face and working towards changing the status quo. That’s the side of the equation that I have found sorely wanting.
So this rocks my world. Every wall is a door, that saying sits on my desk, as I have gone knocking on these doors asking about what it means to be white and how comfortable or uncomfortable I feel with that designation, I’m meeting many like minded people around me who understand that white privilege needs to be acknowledged and then eradicated. There is no level playing field until there is one.
Jennifer Chandler is headed to Seattle to the White Privilege Conference there, she is offering a workshop, where she will have her attendees break out into groups and role play. In each scenario, they will be enacting how white mothers of children of color enter into collusion with white privilege even when that is not their intention.
None of these people I talk to, the African Americans working to heal and inform, the whites looking to move beyond privilege and embrace awareness, believe we singularly can stamp out racism, but a drop of water dear reader exerts the most force, and when you have many drops of water all exerting the same force, tidal waves of change are possible.