By Roberta Waddle
Fayetteville Observer, Posted Jun 4, 2020 at 1:48 PM
My best education has been talking to and traveling with my African-American friends. Things that I give no thought to are considerations for a person of color.
The murder of George Floyd was a tragedy and we should protest and demand justice for his killers. We should demand that every law enforcement agency in the country examine their internal culture and ensure that future training eliminates the chance of another murder like this ever happening.
The death of over 100,000 people from the COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy, and we should mourn them as we try to stem the virus and recover from the economic damage done. Both of these tragedies hit hardest on communities of color and communities least able to cope with it. Both of them are the related to the systemic racism of our society. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing story of our country (and our world).
Some of our ills can be overcome by passing laws that equalize the way the government works. But until most white people can recognize the humanity of people of color and work to eliminate their unrecognized biases, people of color will remain discriminated against.
Fayetteville NOW (National Organization for Women) has worked for years to help our community overcome racism. We have held community events inviting citizens to participate in conversations that lead to more awareness of our internal biases. We have joined with the “Historic Thousands on Jones Street” (HKonJ) coalition (NAACP and allies) to address the issue.
We have collaborated on candidate forums and other public events. We have lobbied our legislators for more equitable laws. We are glad for the formation of Organizing Against Racism (OAR), another coalition of faith groups and civic groups to address systemic racism and educate the community. NOW members will continue to work on the issue.
My best education has been talking to and traveling with my African-American friends. Things that I give no thought to are considerations for a person of color. One of the reasons Fayetteville NOW started the conversations was a woman coming to me anxious about keeping her two African-American sons alive and safe. When traveling, I do not ordinarily consider the consequences of choosing an eating place where I will get prompt service. I don’t choose my routes of travel based on the likelihood of being pulled over and assaulted by a law enforcement officer. I don’t worry about making sure I buy a candy bar before accessing the public toilet. I know this is only scratching the surface of what my friends endure everyday of their lives.
Some things are better than when Jim Crow laws were in effect, but those laws had a lasting influence on the way we live. We (white people) need to carefully examine our personal attitude toward people of different races. What are our expectations when we see a person of color? Is that expectation justified? If that person were white would that expectation be the same? Would you be willing to change place with a person of color? Answering those questions should give us a basis for thinking about our biases.
Examining personal attitudes will not change the systemic racism that is baked into our history. It will not change excessive incarceration of African Americans; it will not change the disparities in education, employment, and housing. It will require that white people stand with our brothers and sisters of color in changing the system. Non-violent protest is a legitimate tactic to bring about change. Silence is not possible.
One thing everyone can do is vote this November, by mail, by early vote or in person.
We will not be measured by the system we were born into. We will be measured by what we do to change the system to be more equitable. There will be no peace without justice.
Roberta Waddle is president of the Fayetteville National Organization for Women
Find the original article in the Fayetteville Observer, Fayetteville NOW president: We should examine our racial biases
Saving here because there is no guarantee how long the article will be available on the Fayetteville Observer site and want to keep it.