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P


erhaps this should have be one of my easiest assignments. It is simple: Interview someone Black, who on a national scale, is educating the [white] community on implicit bias. Someone who is trying to change hearts and minds. Someone brilliant like clinical psychologist and social justice advocate Dr. Adolph Brown. Taking it to heart, I understood my assignment is to listen harder and write


well in this moment of much warranted public outcry to end police brutality. Black Lives Matter. Then came the internal struggle: How


is a middle-aged white lady representing a local LGBTQ mag in the “progressive state” of California even deserving of Dr. Brown’s time right now? His staff is inundated with requests. They are busy setting up interviews with renowned national and international publications, podcasts, news programs, town halls, the list goes on … And I am still over here learning. I am scared of asking the wrong questions. I am struggling, but I can breathe. My mind keeps mulling over something I heard from a local voice, spoken by LGBTQ ally and social justice champion the Rev. Madison T. Shockley II, pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad: “There aren’t enough of us Black people to go around. White people have to speak out and have these uncomfortable conversations, to explain implicit bias and systemic racism. … White silence is violence.” Recently Shockley wrote to Pilgrim’s 90% white congregation: “The work


Rev. Madison T. Shockley II


of becoming an anti-racist advocate begins with you, each of you, in a deep introspective examination of your own life. The bookWhite Fragility by Robin D’Angelo is a critical aid in this self-examination.” Self-reflection is a good thing and I believe most LGBTQ people have done


more introspective work than the average straight person. I’d like to share three personal experiences I’ve had in the last two weeks. Perhaps they show my white fragility. I am struggling, but I can breathe.


1.Generally, I am a friendly welcome-wagon type, and last week, when I saw


an elderly Black man looking a bit lost in my neighborhood, trying to spot an address, I hesitated to speak to him. That’s new. I didn’t want him to think I was suspicious of him being in a predominately white area. I didn’t want him to assume from my question, “Can I help you find your way?” that I was really saying, “What are you doing here?” So, I nodded to him, COVID-19 mask covering my smile, and went about my own business. Was that the right way to handle it? I


don’t want to fall in the category of becoming a Karen, making someone worry for being lost while Black, or being (fill-in-the-blank) while Black. I am struggling, but I can breathe.


2.In the past two years, my brother has overtly repeated the words of white


supremacists when we talk. I feel numb around him. He is an often homeless, sometimes in jail, always couch surfing, addict. He hates his life. How could he possibly value anyone else’s? But his suffering isn’t tied to others achieving justice. Last week, as passenger in my car, while we were at a stoplight, he rolled down the passenger window and spit on a Black Lives Matter sign. It was cowardly. No person was holding the sign, and I may have been the only person who saw him do it. I wanted to kick him out of the car, but I was afraid of the scene that might happen, or him taking further action against the sign in response. I rolled up his window, put on the window lock, and promptly dropped him home. I said not one word. I still have the firm belief that I cannot change his heart or mind. I am not the right person, and I was too angry, hurt, and unsurprised. I blocked him in my phone. I still don’t know what to do, how to approach him again. Do I directly take on white supremacists like him?I am strug- gling, but I can breathe.


3.I am at the grocery store, and a Black man comes down the aisle, larger than


life with joy, singing through his mask to the alt-rock song piped in from overhead speakers: “What’s Going On?” by 4 Non Blondes. I read somewhere recently that Black men do things like that, instead of just “being,” instead of walking around with whatever expression, they sing or chit-chat to make the white people around them feel comfortable and safe. I wanted to say, “You don’t have to be social. I’m good. I feel safe.” Instead, I said nothing, but I joined him song, a bit under my breath, I sang, “Hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah, I said hey, what’s going on?” He heard me and said, “Sing it, sister.” So I sang a little louder and we sang together for a moment or two, both of us searching the shelf for a spice. Then we finally made eye contact, and wished each other a good day. I am struggling, but I can breathe. Now I have more to learn, more to read, and D’Angelo’s extended book title


sure gets at the right question for me:White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism?So, I will close this article with a voice that inspires me each Sunday.


plain implicit bias and systemic racism. … White silence is violence.”


“There aren’t enough of us Black people to go around. White people have to speak out and have these uncomfortable conversations, to ex-


July 2020 | @theragemonthly 13


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