By Andrew Campbell
I’ve been keeping quiet these days.
Like most white folks, I have been trying to shut up and listen to black voices, read black writers and do my best to educate myself about the terminal disease of racism. Yes, it is a terminal disease because no society can live and prosper with so much toxicity.
Racism a cancerous tumor that is devouring the vital organs of our collective existence. If we don’t treat it now, the organs of our social network (legal, political, cultural, economic) will continue to fail, one by one.
But this morning, I saw a friend post something that made me think. Basically, it said that racism is indeed a white problem. Black people are being failed by the system—the white capitalist system. If black people didn’t cause the disease of racism, why would we expect them to remedy it by themselves? This is a time for everyone to pitch in find a cure. It is appropriate and respectful for white people to listen and learn right now, to more thoroughly understand the struggle for racial equality.
But we also must take responsibility and plan tangible actions.
For years, I have been a (constructive) critic of gender equality initiatives that focus exclusively on women’s empowerment. There is no question that it’s a key part of building gender equality, but until men’s behavior is radically reformed, lasting change will never come about for women. For that reason, at the nonprofit that I work for, we started working with men on gender issues several years ago and the results have been astounding. We have seen men dismantling machismo in their own lives and in their families.
The same is true today for achieving racial equality.
We can’t truly achieve racial equality in the United States until white folks change their attitudes and actions. We must also be part of the solution.
How we go about participation in the process of transformation is critical. We can’t ride in on our proverbial white horses to save the day. This is where we should listen and take guidance from the black community. I hope that we never again have to watch a video of a black man being murdered by a white police officer, in the cold face of complicity. I hope that no young black woman is ever again shot in her own apartment by a white police officer with a bogus search warrant.
Every black man in the United States should exercise their right to exercise, by jogging through any neighborhood that they choose, without being pursued, hunted and killed by barbaric white men with a shot guns. I hope there is never another white woman in Central Park that calls the police on a black man watching birds, wielding her cell phone like a switch blade.
One thing is for sure, posting on social media is not nearly enough.
We can’t hide behind a screen in our comfortable worlds and pretend that we’re affecting change. Confronting racism will never and should never be comfortable. At this moment, the marches and protests are a necessary start to the process, but let us not be tricked into believing that protests will cure us of racism. I hope that we, the white folks who sincerely want to eradicate racism, are up to the task. It will take humility, patience and a deep and painful journey through the museum of our own prejudices. Each of them must be toppled and removed, the same way confederate monuments are being eliminated all across the south.
What can we do at this moment?
Pay attention. Listen to black voices. Read black literature. Reject racism categorically, even if it means confrontation with friends or family. Donate to organizations that are working for racial equality and justice. Support black owned businesses. Reach out to black churches and civic organizations in our communities.
Most of all, seek out any rogue, racist cells within ourselves and remove them definitively, with no anesthetic.
Andrew Campbell loves to write, take photographs, cook and putter in his woodworking shop. He lives with his family in one of those tropical countries that are hard to locate on a map. His main goals in life are to minimize his karmic and carbon footprints.
Editor: Dana Gornall