To the Editor:
I’m a white woman. I’ve listened to black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Racism is every white person’s problem. We may think we’re not racist because we do not make overt racist remarks, but racism is insidious and oppressive.
We might say we’re not racist because we have black friends, but we benefit from racist systems. We may believe it’s unacceptable to use racial slurs, but we’ll accept that white people can own homes while blacks face barriers to home ownership. Stark disparities exist for BIPOC; they’re worse here than almost everywhere else in the nation: (https://www.startribune.com/how-did-minnesota-become-one-of-the-most-racially-inequitable-states/547537761/).
If we say we don’t see color, we deny a person’s experiences, beauty, and historical trauma rooted in ancestry. Why not acknowledge people’s color and culture and treat them as whole humans? Let’s ask our BIPOC family, friends and neighbors about their experiences with racism and how we can better support them.
When we attribute racist behavior or thoughts to something other than racism, we blind ourselves to our impact on BIPOC. We might conclude we fear the unknown when we see a large, black man rather than face the discomfort that we’ve learned to fear blacks. We’ve seen fearful white people encounter blacks and call the police as a weapon against them. Let’s love our BIPOC family, friends and neighbors enough to face what makes us uncomfortable, listen to what BIPOC fear and what their ancestors feared, and learn our nation’s complete history versus the “whitewashed” version we’re taught.
If we respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter,” we deny BIPOC their humanity. Would you tell someone whose house is burning, “All houses matter,” and not put out the fire? Of course all lives matter, but black lives are being harmed and need our urgent attention. Do we love our BIPOC family, friends and neighbors enough to help put out the fire? It’s not enough to not fuel the fire; doing nothing is watching it burn. Both cost lives.
When we pass along a meme that says the police will leave you alone if you’re not doing something illegal, we perpetuate a myth. Look up the long list of black people killed by police while doing nothing wrong. Educate others to the dangers BIPOC face. Change law enforcement so it is safer for everyone.
If we find fault with the form of protest, we turn the conversation from the real issue. Extremists traveled to Minneapolis to fuel the unrest and turn the conversation. Imagine years before these were news, teaching your child what to say to not be killed, or being afraid to leave your home. Imagine families living with that oppression for centuries.
Exploitation, genocide, and murder of BIPOC are part of our country’s heritage. Though we did not personally commit these atrocities, we perpetuate oppressive racism. It’s our watch now. We must turn our legacy into one of equity and love for all citizens and work toward a more perfect union in which everyone is truly equal.