Here we go. ANOTHER blog post about race. Some of you are going to stop reading….. now. For the rest of you, I appreciate you staying with me as I learn more about the racial history of our country. I am on a never-ending journey. The scope of information that I am ignorant of is immense. It’s similar to working at a wine shop. You can know a little bit about a little bit but you will never know everything there is to know about wine. The more I learn on this journey the more I realize I have so much I need to learn.
This past week I listened to the podcast recommended to me by Val Brown called Seeing White a 14 episode series created by Scene on Radio. I am on episode 8 and it is difficult to keep hearing how brutally we treated our black and Indigenous Peoples. Even as I write that I understand how fragile I sound. The truth is that this learning is heavy. It wears you down. You get empathy overload. Please don’t misunderstand me. This is something white people need to do. It is a drop in the bucket compared to what BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) deal with every day as a result of this history. What I am saying is that if you are an empathetic person this learning wears on you.
One example of this is when Doug Timm hit me up about episode 5. Episode 5 discusses:
Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors – following one of the major wars between Plains Indians and settlers. In this documentary, originally produced for This American Life, John goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards. link
During the episode, they tell the story of Indigenous people being forced to leave Minnesota. During this march, a white lady ran out and grabbed the baby of an Indigenous woman and threw it to the ground killing it. How does that not shock you to the core as an empathetic human being? Doug was irate! He stated that we wouldn’t even do that to an animal. This is the type of learning that shakes my soul. I imagine the walk, the act, the mother’s screams, the heartbreak and rage of the dad. It’s brutal.
Some may say that was the past. Read it as information or knowledge. I am learning the story about human suffering. This would be like telling the congregation at a church to not feel empathy for Jesus suffering on the cross. We don’t get to pick and choose who we empathize with. I don’t even know if empathize is the right word. I don’t know what it is like to be discriminated or oppressed on that level so sympathy may be a better word except for the fact that I am attempting to put myself in the people’s shoes that I am hearing about. Either way, it deeply bothers me.
Being white allows me to take a break when I need it. I get to step back and take a day off from race if I choose so. I have rarely chosen to do so in the past couple of years. Part of this is my ability to rebound both physically and emotionally. I play basketball, have conversations with people about what I am learning, and eat somewhat healthy. I have outlets. I guess if there is a point to this rambling blog it’s that we need to make sure we don’t stop empathizing with those who have been discriminated and oppressed. They can’t just be stories. There were people. Real people. Who felt like real people do. They felt the physical pain of being whipped. They felt the emotional trauma of having their children ripped from them. They suffered due to the fact that rich white men wanted more money.
I don’t have any advice for you if you are on the journey with me. I don’t know when you need to take a break or how to remain stable when your emotions are going crazy.
What I do know is that now that we have the knowledge of our past we must connect it to the present. How did the past create the present? Most importantly, how can we impact the present to change the future?
Some you know I loooooove Dr. Reverand William Barber. He believes that we are in the midst of the third reconstruction. The first two reconstructions came after the Civil War and the Civil Right’s Movement. I hope this is true. It does seem like this country has been awakened and that we are on the cusp of major positive changes. This may seem far-fetched with what is going on right now.
If we are truly going to contribute to the third reconstruction white people must learn our history. Understand how the government systemically created the segregation we have today. We have to learn how Indigenous People were systemically annihilated and cheated out of their land. Only then can we contribute to the third reconstruction as true allies. This means that when the work gets hard, find out what you need to do in order to keep learning. Just. Don’t. Stop. Learning. We need you.