Racism takes a lifetime to unlearn

Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA recently wrote a great blog post called Pro tips for 2018: Shift your scripts, and consider shutting up inspired by Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia’s sessions at the 2018 United States Breastfeeding Committee meeting and the subsequent National Breastfeeding Coalitions Convening. In it, she reflects on race/racism, bias, cultural humility and epistemic testimonial injustice. Big words, big, important concepts. Her piece is a must-read. It’s sure to get you exploring and reflecting.

Urged to consider shutting up when the time is appropriate in Brooks’s piece, I thought back to Debra Bingham’s, DrPH, RN, FAAN blog post #Speakup for African American and Black Women which we featured on Our Milky Way back in April.

Shut up and speak up. Of course, these two authors aren’t offering contradictory messages. Rudimentarily put, one is about listening to and believing the experiences of People of Color, and the other offers suggestions on how to engage in respectful conversations essentially between white people.

Race is admittedly challenging to talk about. Consider though that People of Color’s challenge is riddled with generational trauma. Their daily lives are entrenched in the legacy of slavery. As a White person, when I talk about race, I experience discomfort, maybe I get a little fidgety and sweaty, but my response is one drenched in privilege; it isn’t one that’s been beaten into my DNA.

Conversations about race are starting to happen more often between my children and me.

When the radio plays, my six-year-old often wonders if it’s a brown person or a peach person singing.

I’ve taken the cue that she’s interested in skin color and awkwardly fumble around the treatment of Black people in America. Pop songs to racism. An ungraceful transition to say the least.

My six-year-old has asked about the “We Back the Badge” signs littering our neighborhood too. My explanation of its origin was mostly incoherent and arguably not age-appropriate. I closed with the suggestion that we display a “We Back the Badge” sign next to a “Black Lives Matter” sign. I looked to her sheepishly –“Whaddya think?”– knowing that I’d completely butchered a wonderful opportunity to discuss race. Her eyebrows furrowed. She said, “I’m going to be a police officer for Black people.”

I know my conversations about race, especially with my children are far from perfect, and I often fear I’m doing more harm than good.

Here’s the thing: as the author of White people, stop asking us to educate you about racism points out, myracism will take a lifetime to unlearn” and while I’d love a quick fix, I’ve accepted this will be a journey.

Luckily, there are tons of great resources online to guide me.

The aforementioned author suggests John Greenberg’s website Citizenship and Social Justice and  Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston.

Bree Ervin wrote 6 Things White Parents Can Do to Raise Racially Conscious Children which has been a great starting point for me.

There’s Raising Race Conscious Children which works to dismantle the color-blind framework and prepare young people to work toward racial justice. Their website offers workshops, a blog, a podcast, among other great resources for parents and other caregivers.

From Privilege to PROGRESS is a group founded after two innocent Black men were arrested for not buying coffee. Their effort calls on White allies to #SHOWUP against racism and social injustice by understanding and using privilege to speak out, share and amplify the voices of People of Color, to desegregate public conversations about race through social media campaigns.

This American Life has been instrumental in my desire to dismantle racism. Their episodes on race are so powerful. Living in White Suburbia, it’s easy to slip into my bubble, but these episodes bring the world to me and remind me that racism is alive and well and disgusting.

I’m committed to racial justice because I refuse to be the person Kimberly Seals Allers describes in Wake Up Call #1 in her piece The Trump Election and 5 Urgent Wake Up Calls for the Breastfeeding Movement: Honesty, Gender Solidarity and PC-ism Are Dead.

Mostly, I strive to be better because too many Moms of Color won’t get to have awkward, hard conversations about race with their babies. Communities of Color are in crises; we are the problem and part of the solution.

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