Wednesday, June 3, 2020

GUEST POST: A note on Racism

To my White Brothers and Sisters,

My name is Katrina Charbonnier and I am a bi-racial woman trying to navigate recent events. While I understand the hesitation to speak publicly and say the “wrong thing”, I know the choice to ignore racism is a privilege. I also acknowledge that those of you who know me may have had no idea I am even Black, and that can also be a privilege. Being bi-racial in this cultural environment lets me understand intimately more than one racial perspective. I am not so Black that I worry my sons are a potential threat to the police. I am also not so white that I don’t know what it’s like to be called the N-words while grocery shopping with my children. Initially, this cohabitation of experiences left me feeling timid and isolated. But in the silence of some of my communities I am learning to see my bi-racial background as a bridge between two worlds. So, I want to share with you some practical, helpful ways you can respond in love to People of Color in your community.
Firstly, if you are white and have not verbally checked in with your friends and acquaintances who are affected by racism, you need to do that. An Instagram post is not enough. You must DO something. You need to acknowledge the pain racism has caused them. Validate their feelings and if appropriate, make yourself available as a listening ear should they need to verbally process. Then, with a humble and teachable heart, you can share what steps or resources you are pursing to no longer perpetuate the problem. Please, please do not ASK them what you should do. Do not make People of Color responsible for your education. Do not expect us to explain to you how to fix a problem white people created. And resist feeling defensive. The goal is not to shift racial oppression from blacks to whites. The goal is acknowledgement, alliance, justice, and change.
Once you have oriented your heart to a humble desire to SEE the problem, you can help fix it. Educate yourself. Chances are that your entire education regarding race, like mine, was centered around the narrative white men told. That racism was a thing of the past, thanks in part to great white men and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That narrative is untrue. Racism is alive, well and devouring human beings today. Obviously. The death of Mr. Floyd was not an isolated incident. The nation is not having an overreaction to the events of this week. People are not just bored because of Covid-19. This outcry is old. And this reaction was a long time coming. Learn why. Read books by black authors, listen to sermons by black pastors, follow news commentaries from Black anchors, listen to your Black friends and acquaintances. And if you do not have any, ask yourself why. Support Black businesses and restaurants in your area. (You can find these with a simple google search).
You can also participate in a peaceful protest. My family and I marched in a protest this last weekend. In the sea of thousands of members of my community coming out to support People of Color, I felt seen and supported. These people did not simply make a social media post. They put their phones down and showed up to DO something. Do not be deterred by your whiteness dear friends. Perhaps the most powerful thing I witnessed during our march was an old white woman standing on the corner of the road handing hundreds of waters to the protesters as they passed by. To find peaceful protests near you check Twitter, the “events” page on Facebook, post on NextDoor and other local apps, or google “local advocacy groups”.
Finally, challenge your peers. Hold one another accountable. A friend of mine posted on social media, “My favorite sandwich shop is open and finally everything is right in the world”. While I can appreciate the relief she felt to have life begin to get back to normal, we must consider the “normal” we are getting back to. I PRIVATELY messaged her to let her know her comment was tone deaf, and hurtful. I gently explained to her that the fact that her sandwich was all she needed to be at peace at a time like this was essentially her waving her privilege around, albeit unintentionally. I braced myself for insta-conflict, but she replied thanking me for showing her how she was contributing to the problem. I have found in all this, the majority of people want change. They are just chained by their habits, ignorance, and the undercurrents of suppression that flow through American culture. However, people want to do good. Help your friends and acquaintances to do that. Of course, that also means you should humbly accept correction should you find yourself facing it.
There is more, my friends, there is so much more you can do. And trust me when I say I am striving to do all these things alongside you. I am not standing on my pedestal yelling down to you, but rather standing beside you holding out my hand. I want you to stand with me. Please take time to consider the following resources as you contemplate what it means to be my ally. And I will include my contact information if you would like to reach me directly.

With humble thanks,
Katrina Charbonnier

Katrina lives in Beaverton, Oregon with her husband
of 9 years and she is mama to two beautiful boys.
In the rare moment when they aren't taking every ounce
 of her energy, you'll find her squeezing in her studies
to pursue her dream to be a midwife.  You can find her
on Instagram as @mrscharb.
A Powerful Sermon Series on the Gospel and Race by Pastor Steve Patton
What I’m reading: His Testimonies, My Heritage
NETFLIX: 13th (Documentary about Systemic Racism by Ava DuVernay)

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