Take a look at my picture. What you see is a woman who has benefited from something completely out of her control: her race. My skin color, ancestry, and first name tell you that I’m a person of privilege. That’s not to say I haven’t had a hard life at times; it simply means that my race isn’t one of the things that has made it harder.
If you can identify with those statements, please know this: it’s time for us to listen. We need to lay down our defenses, along with our opinions and quick answers, and lean into the questions before us, even if what we hear is hard.
Recently, I attended a protest organized by Davison High School students. I went worried. After all, I had been to both Detroit and Flint in response to the death of George Floyd and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. I was concerned that what I would hear in Davison would amount to “All Lives Matter,” which is a tone-deaf response to these present days.
But I was wrong. The messaging was focused and on point. The event, powerful.
Raea Miller, who graduated from Davison in 2019 and attends Wayne State University, spoke from her heart and her personal experiences. She challenged us to examine ourselves.
She asked us to consider the books that we read. If they are written primarily by white authors, it’s time to add new voices to the nightstand. If you don’t know where to start, “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown, “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “White Privilege” by Robin DiAngelo are on many must-read lists. (Here’s more good news: the library is now open.)
Raea asked us to think about the music we listened to and to diversify our playlists. Take a look at the artists you enjoy and then consider weaving in new voices. There is diversity in virtually every genre, and we need to integrate their powerful lyrics into what moves us. he asked us to evaluate the businesses we patronize. Sure, Amazon is easy, but we need to ask ourselves if we really want to contribute to Jeff Bezos’ billions. Where we spend our money reflects our hearts. A quick Google search will point us to Black-owned businesses.
Our wallets should reflect our commitment to support the companies that deserve to thrive.
Finally, Raea asked us to examine the movies we watch and to introduce new and diverse narratives into our living rooms. “Just Mercy” is available for free on digital platforms during the month of June, and Netflix is featuring a Black Lives Matter category. Watch them. Learn. Grow.
In short, it’s not enough to simply “black out” our social media profile pictures, shop at Black-owned businesses on a single day and repost social justice memes. We need to commit ourselves to having hard conversations and face the truth of implicit bias, covert racism, and white privilege. We need to reexamine our often-overlooked daily things.
If you look anything like me, we simply cannot return to “normal.” Over and over again, we need to beat back our defenses and choose commitment over convenience.
“All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter!” we chanted at the rally. Slowly, and together, we can change.
Eileen Button teaches Communication at Mott Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.