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White Anti-Racism

Robin D’Angelo’s book, White Fragility and a recent piece in the Washington Post by Robin Givhan both gave me a taste of why I had instinctively held back from telling Black friends and co-workers over the years that, as a young white woman I had picketed Woolworths at age 16, marched on Montgomery, gotten spit on when I went out with a Black lawyer, and instinctively spoken up and caused good trouble, as John Lewis would say when I heard racist remarks. If I had not avoided talking about my own anti-racist history it would sound as if I was saying “You see, I am not a racist.”  And that is the paradox that I think Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Anti-Racist) would understand, better than anyone, should I, at age 79, tell him my small story.  Because, we all need to tell our stories, particularly those of us who are old enough to have participated in the civil rights movement and are now too old to protest during a pandemic.

That said, what is happening today with racial reckoning, discussions, and protesting is an enormously positive cultural change that has to be celebrated in the midst of the pandemic, the collapse of the economy, and the unraveling of the rule of law. I have to remind myself, and I hope others will as well, to look at the big picture and the long run. Because racism is a cancer that has undermined what is good and valuable for all of us for a very long time.