Conversations On Race: A Timely Accountability Check For AlliesMay 22, 2021
In this episode of The 3D Parent Podcast, I want to take the opportunity to speak to people who consider themselves allies in the fight against systemic racism. This episode is an opportunity for you to assess where you and your family are when it comes to your commitment to be an anti-racist family.
We will go over topics such as:
- The history of Black History Month
- How Black History might actually uphold white supremacy
- The cycle of inaction
I hope this episode will help you evaluate where you are and help you move forward in your commitment to anti-racism.
Things You Will Learn
[00:03] In today’s episode, I will be talking about accountability for allies in anti-racism. This episode is geared towards listeners who would consider themselves to be allies in the fight against systemic racism. This is my fourth episode on the subject of race (find links to my other episodes in the episode resources). I wanted to create this episode because February is Black History Month, and it is an opportunity for you as an ally to assess where you and your family are when it comes to your commitment to be an anti-racist family.
[03:11] My initial plan was to record this episode about black history and create a list of things families can do to celebrate Black History Month. I started to research Black History Month, and one of the first resources I came across was the First Name Basis Podcast hosted by Jasmine Bradshaw. This is a wonderful podcast dedicated to helping families navigate topics related to race, culture, religion, etc. Her episode from Season 2, Episode 5 “A Conversation with My Dad About Black History Month” is what I listened to. One of the things Jasmine shared on this episode was that Black History is American history and should be talked about, read about, and taught all year round. February just is a special celebration of black history. This year, she is offering, and I signed up for “Bite sized Black History.” This program is designed to highlight lesser-known Black historical figures and give children activities, coloring pages, and more. I signed my family up and am looking forward to getting started.
[07:30] The second resource I came across was an article called “Is Black History Month a Racist Celebration? This Professor Thinks So, and You Might Agree” by Professor Derrick R. Brooms from the University of Cincinnati. He argues that Black History Month is an odd celebration because it limits the telling of black history to one month of the year. Black history is American history, and it’s so much deeper than what can be captured in 28 days. He says that Black History Month actually reinforces white supremacy. This article brings a challenging and important perspective to this issue.
[13:17] The next resource I found was titled “Black History Month Isn’t Racist; It’s a Form of Reparations” by Jenn M. Jackson. What the author means when she says Black History Month isn’t racist is that it is not racist against white people. From this article I learned that February was not chosen because it is the shortest month but because it coincides with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Historian Dr. Carter G Woodson founded “Negro History Week” in 1926 to honor and highlight contributions Black Americans have made. In 1976, President Ford officially recognized “Black History Month.”
[19:42] After reading these articles and perspectives, I found myself wondering… Is Black History Month actually a product of white supremacy, part of the problem, or is it an opportunity to celebrate and highlight contributions of Black people in our country. OR is it somewhere in between, something that shouldn’t be needed but is right now as we continue to work to remove the myths of history, remove the white washing of history, and include Black history (and indigenous history, latinix history, Asian-American history) into American history because they ARE American histories and are currently still marginalized and thought to be “other people’s histories.”
[24:29] So, where did this deep dive I took in preparing for this episode leave me? Where is that list of ideas and activities to celebrate Black History with your family? Sorry to disappoint, but I decided this was not what I wanted to provide for my listeners. And there was a great epiphany that led me to make the decision NOT to provide this kind of list. Doing so would encourage performative participation in allyship. Providing a list of ideas would be encouraging white families to check a box and whether consciously or subconsciously think, “We did our part. We took a moment to focus on Black History for a few minutes. Now we can go back and rest in our comfy white privileged world where we have the luxury of not having to think about our race.” I worried that providing such a list would actually perpetuate white supremacy.
[28:06] Racial justice educator, Rachel Ricketts states, “In order to make lasting, collective change, people have to understand that anti-racism is more than a reading list. It’s a spiritual awakening.” So, ask yourself, are you stuck in checking boxes mode and not doing the internal spiritual awakening that will lead you to incorporate anti-racism action into your consciousness and therefore help you lead your family towards true and sustainable allyship with POC in your communities and beyond?
[31:02] This summer, did you feel called to action to “do the work” but have lost focus, energy, or perhaps have been distracted for that mission until you hear about an act of racism on the news? Could you be an ally stuck in what Danielle Coke, artist and advocate of Oh Happy Dani calls “The Cycle of Inaction”? She describes this cycle as a horrific injustice occurring, leading to shock and confusion, then an emotional response, then performative allyship, then guilt and fatigue, then inaction and impassivity, then apathy, until the next horrific injustice occurs.
[36:17] I used to be stuck in the very cycle of Inaction Dani illustrates. I have since moved to a cycle of action. However, now I have encountered the emotional fatigue at times that has not caused me to return to inaction and passivity. It has caused me to at times take break to recharge and reenergize so I can stay active in anti-racist work and not burn out. Activist and social justice burnout is a real thing. Emotional exhaustion, feeling frustrated by a lack of engagement from people who enjoy privilege, and recognizing that I am just one person and am not going to be able to end racism sometimes makes me wonder if I can make an impact at all. But I have learned that it is healthy to, at times, step aside for a moment so I can return and continue with my commitments to anti-racism work. Stepping aside is helpful. Stepping away and returning to inaction is not.
[39:09] My suggestion- do what feels right for you and your family in celebrating this Black History month. I encourage you, my listeners and fellow allies, to use Black History month as that wake-up call if you have lost your focus. Remember that our children are watching. You are setting an example for your children, and if the message they are picking up from you, their school, their communities, and society at large is still reinforcing white supremacy and upholding systemic racism and you are not addressing this or actively fighting to disrupt the system, you are not keeping up a commitment to be a true ally and raise an anti-racist family. We all can do better. We all can do more. Use this month to make a renewed commitment and continue to grow as the leader of your anti-racist family.
Quotes From Episode 66
“You can’t take one person’s perspective and consider it the perspectives of all people.”
“I worry that providing a checklist of activities to celebrate Black History Month would be perpetuating white supremacy.”
“Stepping aside is helpful. Stepping away and returning to inaction is not.”
“Remember that our children are watching. You are setting an example for your children, and if the message they are picking up from you, their school, their communities, and society at large is still reinforcing white supremacy and upholding systemic racism and you are not addressing this or actively fighting to disrupt the system, you are not keeping up a commitment to be a true ally and raise an anti-racist family.”
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