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Let's Get to Work, Part 1

“I am done with America.” “I am done with this America- and I am ready to fight for a

better one.

Lock arms with me, friends.

We have a stand to make.”

You know the bumper sticker “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”? I’ve started thinking it should read “If you’re happy, your privilege is showing.”

I have been a fighter for justice my entire life. Injustices and inequity infuriate me, gut-punch me to my core. My ways of fighting have sometimes been totally off the mark, or maybe just signifiers of my age and privilege.

As a teen, growing up in an affluent town in the Silicon Valley, I decided that I was going to give up everything I had (including my room in my parents’ house) and live in a tent in their backyard. My thought being – why should I be able to live in a house if others cannot? What had I done that was so special, so great, that I deserved something others didn’t? My dad pointed out that I would still be living a fairly cush life in our manicured yard- rent-free – and, the sprinklers would come on every night. Clearly, that isn’t really the point. And clearly, my 1-woman backyard tent stand wasn’t going to do a damn thing to change homelessness. And clearly, the viewpoint of giving up my housing because others don’t have it is a scarcity mindset that I needed to change, because that doesn’t change the housing situation for anyone. I put myself at the center of an issue I was not actually experiencing. But in the fury, confusion, anger, and mostly, rage I felt, I couldn’t think of what to do – me, just a teenager, what could I do?

This notion of teenaged activism was fueled by my participation in the American education system. I received a public school education, one bolstered by PTA and local levy support. I believed I had a great education and by the (white) standards of our nation, I did.

It wasn’t until college, and later on my own, that I started to unlearn what had been spoon-fed to me; the re-written white-centered history, creation, and current atmosphere of our nation. I learned (am still learning) the real history of our nation and the systematic ways it was built to ensure the success of white people and the oppression of Black people. (Hello, white privilege!). I learned of the ways our economy was built to bolster white people on the (literal) backs of Black people (listen to episode 2 of the 1619 Project.); how our (in)justice system was built to continue the legal enslavement of Black people (watch 13th and read The New Jim Crow); how we destroyed Black Wall Street to keep money and success from Black people, and so much more.

This learning process furthered my anger and rage, and brought out feelings of shame (Hello, white fragility!). It also made me realize that I am faced with the cognitive dissonance of this knowledge and my commitment to, and understanding of, community and humanity. I had expectations of the nation I call home that were not being met, as a matter of fact, they were being systematically undermined.

As humans, we seek understanding (or at least I do). This cognitive dissonance was my call to action. If what I know to be true (we are a nation built on, and working hard to maintain, racial disparity and oppression of certain people for the benefit of others) does not match my view of community and humanity (that we are stronger as a collective, that each individual deserves to feel safe, powerful, supported, and protected as they walk through the world), I must work to right-size this. These expectations deserve to be met.

So I fight, I strive, I learn, I work to achieve these expectations. Part of growing up white in America means I have been taught that I can achieve anything I put my mind to and work hard for. I know that’s bullshit as a blanket statement. But, as the definition of who our country gives free access to privilege and power, if I’m not at least going to try out that theory how can I expect white supremacy to end? I’m taking my unearned privilege and power, following the leadership of BIPOC people to disrupt our systems and create a world where every human does feel safe, powerful, supported, and protected as they walk through the world.

White folks, racism and white supremacy is our making. It is ours to dismantle. So as John Pavlovitz said:

“I am done with this America- and I am ready to fight for a better one.

Lock arms with me, friends.

We have a stand to make.”

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