In conversations about racism, I’m often asked midsentence, with a sigh of frustration and large huff of air, “well, what do you want me to do about it? What’s the solution?”
Are you ready to know the answer to that question?
Even closer than that.
Are you ready?
Here’s the Truth: I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t know what you should do to end institutional racism.
I know partly what I have to do and, thanks to lots of books, I have a general idea of what the government/society could do, but I don’t have a specific job for each person that I talk to.
In all honesty, I don’t think most people actually want an answer to that question. What people seem to want, in that moment, is the equivalent of a three-day detox. Even though it took two years to put on those 60-odd pounds, you think 3-days of drinking only lemon juice mixed with water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup is going to be the magical weight loss potion. It isn’t.
Similarly, you want me to give you a quick fix to the “racism problem” – something that’s been built into every institution in the US since on or about 1676 (Bacon’s rebellion). You want me to tell you five actionable steps that you can take today, or the name of the organization to whom you can write a check. You basically want to put a check in the box — to maintain your self-designated aura of “good personess” without endangering your comfort or middle-class status quo—and get on with life. But like the 3-day detox, it’s not going to work.
There isn’t one, quick, and painless solution for achieving a society free of racism. There’s no listicle that I could provide you that would make any of this easy. It will take considerable effort on everybody’s part and in various areas for us to effectively rid our society of racism.
What happens in these conversations where this question arises is that the blinders have come off. You’ve been stripped of your excuses and defenses and come face-to-face with the reality of the world that POC inhabit. And now, in the words of William Wilberforce:
You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.
― William Wilberforce