On my office family call, someone piped up and said “I just want you to know cops are good people. Just because of a few bad apples, we’re not bad people.”
I don’t know why that turn of phrase keeps coming up over and over again with regard to police brutality — “a few bad apples.” This gentleman made this comment after a series of non-white employees who never say anything opened up and presented their vulnerability for all of us. There are no other professions that perform poorly that gets excused as just being “a few bad apples.” Does that anyone say that about doctors? Does anyone say that about airplane pilots?
No one is real at work. That’s really for the best, because it’s such an intersection of different beliefs, but on this call, a Black colleague opened up and delivered such an articulate, emotional speech on how in addition to COVID stress and home schooling, he has to worry about whether he is going to come home alive that night. After he spoke up, I opened my mouth and talked about taking a look at my own biases and privilege, because despite my own experience with racism, I’m never worried I’m going to die at the hands of police, or if my children will.
And it’s not like what I had to say was so great. I’m just practicing speaking up because that is something I can do. We now live in a time where silence means being complicit. If you don’t speak, you are sending the message you are okay with the current state of things. That’s not okay with me. I’m also sending emails and have signed up for a local racial equality group. These are small steps that make me feel better.
Some white co-workers mentioned how they were color-blind (which I did not challenge as a unicorn. That is not a real thing…or maybe it is for some white men because they never think about race?)
We have to collectively let go of the idea that we are good people, that good people aren’t racist. Good people do bad things. I’m sure there are people in the KKK who love their families and enjoy barbecues. They’re still racists.
When I hear calls to “End White Silence,” I always felt left out. As an Asian person in this country, you’re just kind of straining your ear whenever someone lists all the races in the US for the word “Asian,” and more often than not, we are not mentioned. All I want is to be seen! As I have told friends, why can’t we be included in this plea to improve? After all, Asians are racist! We have biases! Some of us are even Republicans!
I have changed my mind. I don’t think this is about me. This is a call on the majority group in power in this country to change, but that I can include myself in this group.
This is a very messy, disorganized post, but I just need to get it out. I have thought about race for years, and have been reading books this past year in particular that have shifted my consciousness, but this month is the first time I thought my own complicity. That is a RUDE awakening. While I have been noticing how much our country really has never gotten over the Civil War, I have never included myself as the oppressor. After all, I’m an immigrant! I just got here really! (I’ve heard some white folks say the same thing, that they did not personally own slaves, so how are they responsible for racist havoc today?) The truth is we are all enjoying a country built by slave labor. The truth is, as a non-Black person, I have been benefiting from racism against Blacks, at the same time, benefiting as a non-White person from Black advocacy.
That is the big switch. This is like reading a novel written in third person to realize it’s in first person. And the obligation I now feel to speak up, to help, to share the burden of educating other non-Black folks about racism has brought up this old feeling — this like trembling excitement but also recognition that this is the call I have to answer. I used to get that feeling when I first began to audition and pursue acting. And I have the feeling, as I did back then, if I ignore this call, I will regret it for the rest of my life.