Becoming not just “not racist,” but “anti-racist” — A reckoning with myself

There’s been fewer sustained periods of time where I’ve been prouder to be an American than this past month, in the wake of large-scale, universal prostests across this country demanding equality for black lives, the LGBTQ+ community and the indigenous, among others in our society who have been marginalized too long.

Essentially they’re calling for an end to the systematic racism this country was built on and continues to prey on.

And in that sense, this past month has arose an awakening in myself that, far too many times, I have been complicit.

I’ve always thought of myself as a tolerant person. I pride myself in reading books written by diverse voices. I’ve always questioned why it’s taken so long just to achieve universal equality in this country.

But I really wasn’t doing anything about it. On top of that, I’ve been benefitting from it. I almost certianly wouldn’t have the life I do today if my skin wasn’t white.

I grew up in a segregated suburban enclave in Merrick, Long Island with very little diversity. There’s no shortage of times when I’ve told people that I grew up in a “good neighborgood, not like those ones in Freeport or Roosevelt.”

I now know that’s coded racism.

I also now know that my sense of humor needs to be strongly rectified. I’ve always been someone who uses comedy as a mechanism. I prefer to be funny rather than serious. I enjoy being the one who provides levity to a situation and makes people laugh.

But because I considered myself tolerant, I always felt I was allowed to make joked that veered into the taboo, with the understanding that everyone around me knew that since I don’t really believe those things, then it’s OK.

No. Because when you’re somebody who has long benefitted from the marginalization of people whom you’re using as the butt of your joke, than it’s no longer a joke. It’s testimony of my privelege.

For the first time in years, I dug back into the Weinblog archives yesterday to see if there’s anything in this blog that might be problematic. I wasn’t so much worried about what I said, but how I said it.

Sure enough, I stumbled across a post in 2015 where I declared “All Lives Matter,” long before it was known in the mainstream to be an insensitive and racist response to Black Lives Matter.

While in the post I acknowledged racism in policing, it was simply my cynical and naive way to try to be a uniting voice amid troubling times. Of course in hindsight, it was my own stubornness to not realize the urgency of the matter, that black people in Ferguson were protetsing because lives were literally on the line, and that all lives can’t matter until black lives matter. I will never say all lives matter again.

I deleted the post. Not because I am trying to rewrite my own history, but because I refuse to let anyone stumble upon it and use it as a corroboration for their own racist beliefs.

Though I deleted it from the Internet, I’ll always remember it as a moment when I refused to acknowledge reality, and will use it as a motivation to better myself.

And I think that’s where we are now. Revolutions don’t occur until the people who aren’t affected join those who are. And now, for the first time in my lifetime, we’re seeing white people join people of color en masse to protest. And we’re seeing immediate results — albeit with a long way to go.

For the first time since I’ve been alive, I feel like the government is being run by the people, and not the other way around. And I hope, more than anything, that that sentiment is what prevails in the general election come November.

Like most people, I’ve learned it’s not enough to be not racist. We need to be actively anti-racist.

Here’s what I’ve done to try to better myself over the past month.

  • I’ve joined multiple Black Lives Matter protests in Brooklyn to show where I stand.
  • I’ve sought out black owned businessed so I can support them. Not once, but continously.
  • I’ve emailed all my federal representatives to ask them what they are doing to fight for racial equality.
  • I’ve read more than a dozen articles, by authors including Ta-Nehisi Coates and Nikole-Hannah Jones, to fill in gaps in my knowledge and perpective.
  • I’m listening to more podcasts that share the black experience.
  • I’m reading books, including The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein and How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, to continue to learn, with more on the horizon.
  • I’ve watching films and documentaries by black filmmakers, including Ava Duvernay’s “13th” and Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing,” and at the same time am fully realizing how underrepresented these voices are in Hollywood.
  • I’m being more vocal on social media without worrying about “taking a political stance,” because equality is not political.
  • And I’m having conversations with people I associate with — mostly white — to learn how we can all do better colelctively.

This list is by no means to toot my own horn, but to try and determine what more I can do.

More than many people, I have a way of processing my growth over time, thanks to this blog. Looking back yesterday, I was mostly proud of the things I wrote over the last 10 years, though it also came with plenty of cringeworthy moments.

And that’s what’s pulling me back now. Don’t expect me to return regularly, but I think it’s important to document who I am and who I’ve become, so I do plan to check in intermittently.

Until then, let’s all keep fighting the good fight. We’ve got work to do.


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