Dear White People by Linda Jambor Robinson
For the past four plus years my life partner, Linda Jambor Robinson, has been deeply engaged in the study of race and racism in U.S. history as well as the present. In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri events, she founded a race and social justice study group. She also participated in a Civil Rights Pilgrimage that took her to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, among other historic locations.
I have asked her to share some of her thoughts and suggestions on this topic, and am grateful that she has agreed to do so. Linda, as some of you know, is a professional educator who for many years taught and then gave leadership as a school principal in the Seattle Public Schools. She is also a yoga teacher and practitioner, an artist, a mother and grandmother. I am pleased and proud that her’s is the first guest contribution to my blog. Here it is.
“It’s been too long, so long, forever long.
“White People. White People. Dear Dear White People. It is time. It has been time.
“Educate Yourself. This is not new. This is not happening for the first time. We know this. There has been injustice and rage for the longest time. Keening. Voices have been speaking for a long long time. Read. Go back and read James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time). Listen. Come forward and read and then read some more. Read novels: Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Jesmyn Ward and more. Read history. Read analysis. Read Ta Nehisi Coates on reparations (Atlantic June 2014). Read historian Carol Anderson (White Rage) on racial backlash and on voting rights (One Person, No Vote). Read our history. Re-read the history of the Civil War (How the South Won the Civil War – Heather Cox Richardson). Especially read the history of Reconstruction. Read about redlining. Read about income disparities based on inherited property wealth. Read about race in our country after World War II. Read the history of Native peoples in North America. Educate yourself.
“White women carry a particular burden. Read. Interrogate yourself. The reading lists are long. Ask for recommendations. Just start. Find trusted friends to read and discuss with. White friends. Black people do not have time to explain the world to us white people. Listen. Stop talking. Educate your children. And grandchildren.
“Watch. There are many powerful documentaries and movies. Start with “13th”. Move on to “When They See Us”. Don’t miss “Just Mercy”. The list is oh so long. Ask for recommendations. Sit with your discomfort. Feel it.
“Watch for implicit bias. Watch yourself for microaggressions. Find out what that word means. Don’t patronize. Don’t say you understand. Empathy is not the answer. It is not enough. If it makes you feel good it is probably not what you need to be listening to or watching.
“Travel. Travel to Birmingham. And Montgomery. To Washington DC To Selma. Walk lightly and with humility. And if you can’t travel far, walk your own town or city. Open your eyes and ears. Listen and look. The legacy is everywhere.
Vote. Did I say vote? Vote! And demand voting rights and voting access.
“Shop with integrity – Think before you buy. Who are you supporting? What are you supporting? Are you supporting small businesses, black businesses?
“Check yourself – What happens when you are uncomfortable? How does uncomfortable feel? What happens to you when you are the only one who looks like you on the street? In the classroom? Sit with that.
“Look around – Who is missing from the group? Who is missing from your grocery store? Benaroya Hall? The middle school band? Your church? Your work place? The halls of your child’s school? Your neighborhood? Who is present? Who is missing? Ask why? And then sit with the answer.
“Guilt is not the answer. Guilt changes nothing. Acknowledge. Just start. Keep going. Don’t stop. Educate yourself. Sit with your learning.”
Thank you, Linda, for the work you have done and are doing, and for sharing it with us here. Tony