My first week as a freshman at the University of Texas, after an orientation with hundreds of students, they broke us out into smaller discussion groups, and the topic quickly turned to access. I was one of only a couple of white kids in the group, and I remain grateful that 1) the students of color in that discussion group spoke to me in personal terms without getting openly offended at my ignorance about a lot of things my white, suburban upbringing had shielded me from, and 2) I listened.
I am endlessly grateful to past-me for listening, and I encourage everybody to listen now. When somebody tells you their experience, and it makes you uncomfortable, it might be easiest to say, “That’s not true.” But that is wrong. When someone tells you their experience, listen.
I grew up knowing that racism was real, but that it was wrong. I was told that it was an artifact of a dead past, and it would soon be gone. I was eager for that day to come. But I was lied to. We were all lied to.
We were lied to by people who benignly repeated lies they themselves had been told, and we were lied to by people with agendas. We were lied to by people who made lots of money off our ignorance. We were lied to by people who were lying to themselves. By now, it should be impossible for any of us to keep hiding behind those lies, and it is incumbent upon us to get educated, advocate for, and take concrete steps toward positive change.
Racism is real. It is not an artifact, it is a living, breathing disease that permeates the entire American body. It’s in education, housing, healthcare, the job market, law enforcement, banking, and whatever else you can think of. It is impossible to deny this in good faith. Impossible. To unwind racism will require admitting it, recognizing it, and working to fight it.
The culture will not, generally speaking, deliver unto you Black voices for you to listen to. So seek them out. Here are some resources:
- Ibram X. Kendi’s anti-racist reading list
- FIYAH, the magazine of Black speculative fiction
- The New York Times 1619 Project
- The Criterion Channel’s spotlight on Black Filmmakers (Charles Burnett is one of my personal favorites)
- I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO. An essential documentary about James Baldwin.
- ARRAY 101. Ava DuVernay’s learning companion for students, based on her mini-series WHEN THEY SEE US.
- MUDBOUND on Netflix.
And, if you can, please give. Give of your time, or of your money. Here are some good organizations: