A Call to Action
If you're reading this, for a cookie cutter response to everything going on, this won’t be it. Since becoming AD at AHIA, I have been encouraged to speak what’s on my mind and my heart. This letter to you, will do just that. Some of it may seem harsh, or offensive, but that’s an issue that you will have to resolve internally.
What’s going on in America and the Austin community, is a direct result of avoidance. Avoiding and putting off for another generation to address. The longer we put it off, the worse the problem gets and the harder it becomes to fix. AHIA was created to address generational toxic learned behavior. Proudly we can say that our families are changing and growing for the better. This change happens when we provide education, support, a time for reflection and implementation.
In the same way we encourage our families to reflect and address the toxic behaviors learned, we must do the same for our country.
Every few years our country comes to a crossroad. We either take the right and address the issues that taint our country. Or we take a left and fake the funk for a few months and then return to business as usual. The right road is abandoned, in terrible condition, and uncomfortable but at the end of the road, there’s a country that loves and cares for all. The left road is smooth and work is routinely done to fix any bumps or holes so that those with privilege don’t have to be uncomfortable. But if you're a poc, you don’t really want to travel on that road because you know what’s underneath that perfect cement. The bodies of people who look just like you. You know that at every turn there’s a person of authority waiting to take away your freedom. To bury you as if you never existed.
African Americans and our allies are left with many unanswered questions as we quest to find a solution. Why does the color of my skin make me unworthy of a decent education, a good job, a safe community, and more importantly life. Our allies assure us that “all white people aren’t racist” and “all cops aren’t bad”. And we believe you because we know what it feels like to never receive the benefit of doubt. We know what it feels like to work hard, take your family on vacation and be treated like a criminal. We know what it feels like to be followed around a store. We know what it feels like when someone clenches their purse or holds their child extra tight when they're in our presence.
When the dust settles, after all the marching and protesting, we find that we haven't really made much progress. The murderer may or may not be charged. They may or may not be convicted. But what we know is that this won’t be the last time. In fact we know that there are so many unanswered deaths by the hands of the law, and racist bigots. That feels defeating. It feels defeating that every few years we see several deaths back to back, and we become enraged and start this process all over again.
We as a people try to come up with ways to avoid these situations. We teach our children to walk straight, cut their hair, don't wear certain colors. We try to start our own businesses and build up our communities. Forgetting that even when we get loans from the bank, we’re charged higher interest rates than our white fellow business owners, even when our credit scores are at the same level or higher. But that doesn't really work, does it? No. Why? Because if a person was taught since birth to view me as less than human, and it works for them with no consequence. Why would they change? How could anything I do, make them see me any different? It seldom does.
But I can imagine if their friend or family member challenged them, educated them, cut off business ties, no longer allowed their children to play together, that might cause some change.
I don’t know what conversations are had around the dinner table. I don’t know what is being said behind closed doors while the news is on. I don’t know what is whispered in public when a family of color is around. I don’t need to know. I see it and I feel it. I see it and I feel it, at the playground, when a child is being extremely mean to my child and their parent looks away. I see it and feel it when we take our children to the movies or dinner.
So, here it is. A call to action. White america needs to stand up against racism, as if it were your family being hunted down and murdered. This is not the battle of African Americans. This is not our cross to carry. The white people that we call friends aren’t racist, but they have white friends and family members that are. That needs to be addressed.
For too long, racism has been overlooked simply because it doesn’t affect you in the same way. If you are not willing to call it out within the confines of your family and social circles you are the problem. Uncle Tommy making racist remarks, and you dismissing it because “he’s old” is not okay. Labeling your friend Tom as a jerk, is not enough. Your mother in law doesn’t get a pass for encouraging your children to hate other children. And you cannot simply remove yourself from their lives, without first trying your hardest to change their thought pattern.
We as African Americans, are here to help and advise if you need it. We can be a shoulder to cry on when it gets hard. But that's where it stops. We don’t have the privilege to sit at the same tables you do. And as we work on our communities, we need you to do the same.
Here are some links to help you be more informed, and to help with those tough conversations: