Am I doing enough about racial injustice?
I always wondered what I would have been doing if I had been alive during the race riots in the 1960s. I wondered how people could just sit by and let the racial injustice in the society happen.
But this week has opened my eyes. That moment of need to fight racial injustice in this country never really ended, did it? The question is not what I would have done. The question is, what am I doing right now?
As I look at my life, I ask, what is it I am doing?
Sheltered by uniformity
I grew up in a very small, very rural community. We were the very opposite of diverse. I don’t think there were any black people in my high school, save the one black guy who was in high school while I was in junior high.
Nobody directly taught that one should be a racist or to hate someone for the color of their skin. In fact, coming from a poor family I was always rooting for the underdog and I’ve always had a deep-seated burning for justice.
But I was taught to be leery and a bit afraid of anything that was odd or different. And so, I guess in the community in which I grew up, that would in effect apply to people of color.
I grew up, moved out of my small town by going to college. I met my husband during college, and he is a from a different race and culture than I am. For me that was a fun perk: cute kids and I get to learn and live within a much broader cultural space than I started in. And the food is great!
I don’t think I was ever racist. What I was was blissfully unaware.
A real eye-opening moment for me was the anti-racism training offered by the Sisters of Providence. It was the early 2000s, and at the time the sisters had an anti-racism team that offered training to all their sisters, staff members and many others in the community. I remember my presentation was by a sister, a police officer and some other community members. The sisters had teamed up with the local police to share their message and training with them and alongside them. Something powerful and needed. Perhaps even ahead of its time.
That anti-racism training opened by eyes to the utter injustice our society sets before people of color, especially black Americans. I saw for the first time how black people were treated differently by police officers, when applying for jobs, within our justice system. It opened my eyes and I was never the same.
I admire the Sisters of Providence and how their dedication to justice made a difference in my life and in the lives of people I touch.
Is it enough?
And now here I am. In this moment. Am I doing enough?
Well, my life work of more than 20 years has been helping to amplify the Sisters of Providence voice and help others to know their message. A message of love, mercy and justice. A message our world needs.
I see these women pouring out their lives for people in need. In need of food, or care, or compassion. In need of more just systems. In need of freedom from oppression.
I am where I am supposed to be with the Sisters of Providence. I do know that. It is a blessing to be able to walk with them as a Providence Associate.
And then I am also a mom. This aspect of my life takes a lot of time. The cooking, the cleaning, the coordinating, the driving, the listening, the caring.
But one thing I am doing is raising amazing young people. Young people who care about justice. Who will grow up to be part of the answer to this problem in our systems. Kids who are aware of the need for justice in our society and in our world.
I’ve been talking to my kids about the racial injustices going on in the United States lately. Like me, they are incensed. They are confused. They don’t know what to do, but they are appalled at how people are treated just for the color of their skin.
My 14-year-old is ready to go out and join the peaceful protesters in the street. My 10-year-old tells me he doesn’t know what to feel, but he doesn’t think he is going to grow up to be a racist. That is a great start!
I am also staying educated. And I’m willing to speak out for justice when I see people being oppressed and treated unfairly.
Am I doing enough? It sure doesn’t feel like it when I see a video of a man murdered because of the color of his skin.
What more should I be doing to help? Tell me here in the comments. I really want to know. Right now, I feel sad and a little helpless. What do you think is next for fixing this mess of racial inequality in our country?