I don’t usually, but I went to church for the last three Sundays in a row. Not to a sermon. But to a facilitated conversation designed to bring community members together to talk about race.
Seriously, it was great. At each meeting we watched an episode of the PBS series Race – The Power of an Illusion, had an hour for small group discussion, and then a closing with the full group. There were 60-80 people there each night. I thought it was an impressive turnout for such a fraught topic.
My favorite discussion question went something like this: Why is it that so many well-intentioned white people—folks who would say they aren’t racist—find it so hard to organize and create real change around race?
When the organizers passed around a sheet for future involvement, I noticed a lot of people signed up for a book group, but hardly anyone put their name under the “action” column.
What is that about?
I decided to try a little personal experiment; take a simple action and pay attention to what I went through to achieve it.
I picked the news item that had most recently outraged me. It was the federal land grab from the San Carlos Apache Tribe where a sacred site was stolen from the tribe and “traded” to a mining company.
Okay, take action. Go!
My first roadblock to action: Wow there is so much to read and study. I almost got stuck thinking I had to know all about it before I could determine if action was warranted. Move on, move on.
Second roadblock to action: Feeling completely overwhelmed. My mind traveled to the enormity of the land grab that occurred over the centuries as non-Natives displaced and killed unknowable numbers of indigenous people. The genocide of Native Americans was not my fault, but the legacy of it is my responsibility. So, what can I do now? Keep moving.
Third roadblock to action: Finding out what to do. I’m leery of actions directed by people who are not directly impacted. But then I fear that people who are being crushed by something are often not in a position to be directive. But wait, here’s a take action link on a San Carlos Apache site. Perfect! Click.
Fourth roadblock to action: Well, I signed all the petitions and felt like I was giving my identity away to unknown people. I did it anyway but the whole time I was thinking: Who are these people and what are they going to do with my information? This has stopped me in the past.
Fifth roadblock to action: I posted links to the petitions I signed on my Facebook page and donated money. But I have that feeling of it’s not enough, it’s never enough.
Okay, now I get it. Taking action is not self-gratifying. There is no certainty, no immediate result. It’s overwhelming, confusing, and scary.
But here’s what I want to say to myself and to white people reading this: Do it anyway. Follow the lead of the people who are being wronged. Move, do, sign, donate, march, testify, risk, Risk, RISK, work hard, link arms, fall down, get up. Go!