Ever since the horrific events of Monday, May 25th these words swirled in my brain “When are you going to address this Relationship Challenge named Racism?”
I SHOULD have powered my word engine that same day to write about the deepest Relationship (a.k.a. Pothole) Challenge facing our country.
But I didn’t.
As a woman, I had no words.
Above all, my white-skinned fingers were paralyzed by the complexity of racism. I felt inadequate…or was it impotent? Or unworthy? Or embarrassed to know so little?
Not just another Relationship Pothole
You signed up for my blog because we share similar interests of RV’ing, Adventure, Travel, with the occasional Relationship Pothole that pops tires on the roads of our retirement years. In other words, I’ve addressed some pretty serious Potholes like Divorce, Suicide, Drug addiction, and COVID confinement.
But nothing comes close to the seriousness of today’s topic- it’s not just a Pothole…it’s a SINKHOLE.
Here’s a review of what happened on May 25th.
You’ll recall that morning in New York City when a white woman named Amy Cooper weaponized her “whiteness” against an innocent Black man named Christopher Cooper (no relation) who was bird watching in Central Park. Christopher’s cell phone video captured Amy pointing a finger at him and hysterically telling the 911 dispatcher “there is an African American man attacking me and my dog”. Not a true statement. Amy ended up losing her job with her employer who stated publicly “we will not tolerate any form of racism” and Amy is facing misdemeanor charges of falsely reporting an attack.
“Christopher Cooper’s experience is a master class in why generation after generation of black Americans know that one day, no matter their education, where they live, what they’ve achieved, someone just may take offense to the very idea of their existence and try to weaponize it against them. But as his poise in the infamous video reveals, Cooper is well-suited to this teachable moment for America.”The Washington Post, May 26, 2020
Just a few hours later on that Monday, video releases from Minneapolis dominated every news channel as we witnessed the horrific murder of a Black man named George Floyd. As he lay in the street begging for mercy, repeating “I can’t breathe” he called out for his dead mother, as a white cop defiantly suffocated him with his knee on his neck.
“The racial bias that made Amy Cooper highlight that Christopher was a black man is the same racial bias that made this white cop think it was okay to keep his knee on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds until he was dead. It happened on the same day and it sprang from the same wellspring.”Washington Post, June 23, 2020
In order to write this blog post, I needed information, education, and time to process. Therefore, day after day I guzzled Google fuel regarding this Racism Relationship Pothole that seemed to only swallow Black people.
- I had Zoom calls with several Black and Brown skinned relatives and friends and asked about their experiences of discrimination.
- I downloaded and began reading 5 best-sellers dealing with the topic of Racism in America.
- I tore through You-tube videos from Black RV’ers who spoke about Racism.
- I watched documentary films like 13th, that dealt with Systemic Racism, Slavery, Red-lining, and Jim Crow.
- I’ve listened to and subscribed to several Black writer’s blog posts and podcasts.
- I read every social media article on the topic of Racism that came through my feed.
Do you know what happened? I gained traction and learned a ton about Black history and the plight of Black people in America.
Uneducate me, please?
I also needed to be “uneducated”. As I compared my research to memories from my grade school social studies books and high school history books I uncovered an ugly truth. To clarify- my educational upbringing served up heaping doses of White-washed information regarding the Black person’s experience in our country.
Writing to White women
So, Girlfriends. I am guessing the majority of you reading this post are White. And most of you are RV’ers. It’s sad, but in the five years of Fulltime RV living, I’ve become acquainted with no more than twenty Black RV’ers. (Why so few? Certainly a topic for another post).
Your email address doesn’t reflect your skin color. However, as I look at research data it shows “Among new U.S. campers in 2017, whites made up 72 percent; African Americans, 8 percent; Latinos, 10; percent and Asians/Pacific Islanders, 7 percent.”: https://www.crossingcreeksrvresort.com/index.php/categories/item/135-american-campers-get-younger-more-ethnically-di
I’m wondering what your visceral response is to the racial bias directed toward Christopher Cooper and George Floyd. As a White woman, are you enraged? Shocked? Embarrassed? Indifferent? Unconcerned?
Did May 25th affect you as it did me? Are you more aware that there is an entire segment of our society that has had to experience life relationships in a totally foreign way than what we’ve experienced? Certainly, these women (and men) have had to view life through a lens of judgment, cruelty, and discrimination ever since they were born. And their relationship with us whites and especially white cops and white people of authority have not resonated equally with our story as Americans.
This is a Black person’s “normal”. Actually, it’s the norm for ANY person of Color other than White here in the U.S.
Stick with me
Don’t leave me yet, please. As my loyal subscribers, I hope that you trust me enough to know I’ll be straight with you.
Looking over your shoulder
In prepping for this post, I spoke with my Black and Brown family members and acquaintances to hear their stories of inequality. They shared stories of being followed in stores, of being stared at in public places in small towns in the Midwest. They’ve thought twice about how their voice sounded over the phone and practiced code-switching. Additionally, stories were shared of being pulled over by police for “a suspicious Black person in the area”!
My middle class midwestern White world never caused me to worry about being followed as I shopped at Walmart. And I certainly never had a concern when pulled over by police (even with the occasional speeding ticket).
The closest I’ve come to experiencing what a Black woman tolerates happened in January when John and I drove our Jeep into Mexico for a weekend on the Gulf of California at Puerto Penasco. Although this city caters to American tourists, I caught locals staring at us as we explored the area. For instance, special car insurance is necessary for your vehicle when you enter Mexico and it comes with a written warning. “If you are caught speeding- your vehicle will be confiscated and taken to the police headquarters”. Period.
That freaked me out.
I knew we were in the minority and I felt the need to look over my shoulder many times to see if we were being followed. However, unlike a dark-skinned person, I could escape my uncomfortable circumstance by simply returning to the U.S.
As White women we are confused. We don’t give inequality much of a thought during our day because we don’t have to. Moreover, we aren’t subjected to daily reminders that our skin color is darker than the majority. Besides, we hang out with mostly white people therefore, we don’t see the need to act- to be a part of the solution to erase the ugliness of this massive Relationship Pothole. In other words, we embody white privilege.
And we certainly don’t think we are racist.
I am a part of the problem. Just the other week, I gave something to John but then needed it back. Before I even knew it, the words “I need to be an Indian giver and take that back” popped out of my mouth.
Ugh. It was a humbling admission as I slapped my hand across my mouth wishing to retract the words, I had spoken out loud.
Here’s another example. As I watched a documentary on Racism, the commentator interviewed a person whose vision began an extraordinarily successful non-profit. The well dressed (and obese) Black woman arrived on stage. Unfortunately, I immediately judged her as lazy simply because of her weight and her skin color. I KNEW it was wrong to think these thoughts, but it happened inside my head anyway.
I felt ashamed. Her passionate eloquence, vision for the future, and numerous accomplishments energized the audience ending with a standing ovation and cheers of applause.
White Woman’s work
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but here’s where I’m landing. Simply said, I want to erase racism from my mind and the world around me. I want to be able to look back at my life and say I loved people well. It would be great if people thought of me as that White woman who “stood up for people that were harmed, or looked different, or needed support when lonely.” (ERACISM- a word found on memorabilia at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.)
As Jen Hatmaker says, “This is White woman’s work”.
We can do hard things and make a difference. Amy Cooper is an example of how NOT to use our power. As women, we must never weaponize our fear when we feel threatened. In my next post, I’ll be sharing specific ways that we CAN work for equality for Black-skinned people.
You are important in this time of history. It’s no coincidence that you are reading this post. The media has inundated us with stories of racial bias and the protests that resulted in a response. We have been raised with prejudice and racism and it permeates every aspect of our lives. However, we can do something about it.
I’m going to stop here, but my next post will illuminate how the heck America got to this place of racial divide and I’m including tons of solutions that we as White women can take on and make a difference.
We CAN do hard things, Girlfriends.