Monday, June 29, 2020

Treat Racism Like COVID 19

In our nation and communities, we have been called to do our best to explore what we can do about racism as well as COVID-19.  How do we diminish and halt the spread of these two viruses?  I recently saw this sign that provides information relevant to both.  This simple home-made sign provides four guidelines for both. These are listed below with some additional exploration.

1.       Assume you have it.  COVID-19 is often asymptomatic.  You may have no idea that you have it, but you still are doing things to spread it or not prevent it from spreading. Similarly, no one wants to be called a racist!  But if you grew up as a white person in this country with countless systems of white supremacy, it would be exceedingly difficult not to have developed some biases.  We should assume that we HAVE been affected, even if we have black friends and family members, or if we grew up in the liberal Northeast.  We all have been affected (or perhaps infected).  So, we all have to take an honest look at ourselves and our communities and work deliberately to make a difference.

2.       Listen to experts about it.  There are immunologists and public health professionals who have been studying corona viruses and pandemics for years.  Sadly, many of these folks and their programs were cut by this administration.  Yet, there are other experts who are providing information.  We should all be following at least the CDC guidelines.  It is true that this is a NOVEL corona virus – so there are still things they do not know, and they may need to shift their guidelines. Nevertheless, we need to be listening to them, not our cousins, or politicians who want to wish it away.  Similarly, there are many folks who have been studying racism and white supremacy for a long time.  Scholars like WEB Du Bois have left us with much information about this history.  And much is currently being written by black, white, and brown scholars who are trying to help us.  Even if you are not a reader, there are many fine films and documentaries you can watch.  Listen to these folks.  Follow the leadership of black and brown people who have lived their lives extremely affected by racism.  And read books and articles by white allies who are working to change themselves and others.  

3.       Don’t spread it.  In terms of the COVID 19, we KNOW how to slow the spread.  I am not going to share these recommendations with you.  You already KNOW.  But why are so many not following guidelines.  All the knowledge in the world does not help if we refuse to wear a mask, etc.  Also, our silence with others is detrimental.  You may be silent with others you know are probably spreading it by their actions, but you decide not to speak up; not to cause hard feelings, etc.  This does not help.  Similarly, your silence regarding racism and white supremacy is detrimental and does nothing to stop the spread.  There are ways we can work with society – with LOVE – and help ourselves and others to not spread – and hopefully eliminate systemic racism and white supremacy.

4.       Be willing to change your life to end it.  No one likes to live like we have had to live since COVID 19 forced us to adjust our lives dramatically.  But I think most of us felt that it would be a short-term thing and we would not have to really change our lives.  Now I know there are things I will not return to doing.  I am not going to shake hands anymore – and I hope that is okay.  And I am willing to change much more.  I know you are as well.  But when it comes to racism, there are many who do not want to change their lives.  White supremacy has worked well for most white folks – even if they are low income.  We all have lots of privileges and power.  Some say, “it’s not a zero-sum thing, others just need to have the same privileges.”  But for others to have the same, there indeed are things we need to be willing to let go of.  Are we really willing to do this?  I hope so.  I think for most folks to dramatically change their lives, it takes something like religious conversion.  I do not mean adopting a different theology. I mean something that you accept with all your mind, body, and soul.  My hope is that we WILL make these commitments as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.  May it be so!