What should I learn about Racism?


I am writing a book about racism.  ‘Why?’ you might ask.

Well, not because I have any expertise on the matter.  Not because I want to.  Not because it’s easy.  Not because it’s comfortable…  It’s none of those things.  And there are a bazillion easier ways to get a cookie, so it’s not that either.

To be clear up front, I am a a middle-aged 9th+ generation Tasmanian beige-skinned woman who grew up not even knowing there was such a thing as race.  I have not personally suffered anything on the basis of my race.  Ever.

But racism is my problem anyway.

3It is my students’ problem, my friends’ problem, my relatives’ problem, my country’s problem, my online community’s problem; and, thanks to various political influences, it is likely to get poked with a stick more and more often.  I am part of all those mini-worlds, and the greater world around them, so that makes it my problem too.  And because I choose to engage myself in a global social media community, I see calls from people that scream:

“White people, educate yourselves.”

Well, I paid attention.  I heard you.  I am educating myself.  Because the senselessness of racism makes me feel physically sick, and because the best way to advocate for change is to know what the hell I’m talking about.

2I also paid attention to angry people who say that white advocates just want a cookie.

I paid attention to those who said that white people should “ask” first and act later.

I paid attention to hurt and isolated people who said that white people know nothing about racism.

And I also paid attention to the immense absence of material that could make a difference to those who are angry, and to those who are misunderstood, and to those who misunderstand, and to those who want to be educated.

Yes, there are documentaries, and historical documents, and facts and figures that can make your head spin.  But if I’ve learned one thing so far, it’s that racism is not a facts and figures thing.  It’s a human thing, with emotions and prejudices and perhaps all manner of other influences:  None of which are likely to respond to facts and figures, but to connection with those intrinsically human elements.

Apart from one (extremely articulate) blog post that meticulously and patiently explained the Black Lives Matter movement for those who misunderstood its relationship with All Lives Matter, I have seen very little publicly accessible content that explains much at all. The internet is a giant repository of information and freedom of speech – some of it valuable and some of it utterly poisonous.  Why not move some of the misinformation out of the spotlight to make room for information that can heal some wounds and prevent more of them happening?  How do we find the voices that need to be heard, and that we need to hear?

The search is on.

1. What do you think I should learn?

2. Why do you think it’s weird (or not) that I would do this? What’s a better way?

Drafting just the first 70 pages taught me that this process is utterly life-changing, even as one who identifies strongly as non-racist.  It has shown me that what I learn cannot be un-learned.  And that is why I am recording the journey in a publicly accessible book rather than a personal journal. Perhaps (hopefully) we will be able to identify, within it, what the threshold concepts are:  The turning points that help, as well as what doesn’t.  At the very least, I hope it will in some way be constructive and useful for someone.

If you would like to offer your thoughts about either or both of the two question topics, above, please post below.

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