We had our July enewsletter planned. In fact, yesterday, I sat with a copy of it for my review. I read it three times, and while I very much wanted to share the good work that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has been engaged in—and there is so much good work happening—I was struggling to sign-off on the beautifully prepared and celebratory newsletter that sat before me. And then I woke to more violence and bad news this morning.
My heart is heavy. I feel immobilized. Tears flowed on several occasions yesterday. I wanted to turn away from the screen and social media, but I couldn’t. Another video, another senseless murder, another life lost, another family destroyed. Have you heard the heart wrenching, bring-you-to-your-knees sobs of Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son during a news conference, as he cried, “I want my daddy…”? Did you watch Diamond Reynolds as she stood in front of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion demanding justice, not only for her boyfriend Philando Castile, but also for every family that has sadly come before her? “This is much bigger than me,” she said. I challenge anyone to watch either of those videos and not be rocked to your core.
Think racism is a thing of the past? Think again. As a white woman, I will never know what it feels like to live in constant fear that my actions or my words or my simply being could end my life. I’m the mother of two teenage girls. I’ve never had to sit them down and explain to them how they are supposed to “be” in this world. When my 16-year-old started driving, I feared for her safety as a new driver, but I never feared for her life in the event of a traffic stop. Privilege. I am privileged. My girls are privileged. We live a privileged life.
All day, my Facebook feed was filled with friends and colleagues who are grieving. They are tired. They are angry. They’re feeling hopeless. They are in pain. I want to wrap my arms around all of them and offer words of comfort, but what would those words be? Everything will be ok? Justice will be served? We’re going to make this right? Ha – those aren’t words. Those are lies, and I won’t lie to my friends and colleagues. Instead, I promised to find my words at a time when I was at a loss for words.
And so here’s my start. At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when? In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Here we are, 52 years later, a long way from racial justice.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, listen to the stories of six beautiful women in DC who bravely shared their experiences. “Too few hold the power. Too many are powerless… There’s a different standard for everything… You think we don’t see it?”
I see it. My eyes are wide open. The question is: What do we do now?