Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the Cowlitz, Columbia, Grand Ronde, and Siletz people as the stewards of the area where I live and thank them for their leadership. I also want to acknowledge the people who have cultivated me. I would not be here without my family – by birth and by love – and the wisdom and leadership of Jomo Greenidge, who transitioned to ancestor in December 2020, as well as countless people who have challenged, strengthened, guided, invited, and loved me to a more whole version of myself. I honor you all.
Note: I am a white person speaking to white people. This piece was written originally after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Until the senseless murders of Black people stop, this will still be relevant.
I’m spinning in circles today.
Another Black person was lynched.
My mourning clothes feel too comfortable. Everything inside of me crawling, aching.
I haven’t been able to watch. I need no more proof.
Three nights ago, I woke to a soaked pillow. My nightmare was that of this family’s reality. Hate had visited our family. I held my boy’s body in my arms. Trying to put the life back into him.
To my white community, I love you, and this must stop.
I live at the intersection of your reasons why “not today” and my belief in our ability to change.
I do not mean to make light of whatever you are going through. But we are not ok. How long will we watch stardust fall to the ground and do nothing about it? The alarm is a perpetual ringing in my ears at this point. I look into your eyes with one question.
Do you hear it too?
To those of you who…
- are numb
- blame “those” white people
- find yourself asking questions about the circumstances
- are uncomfortable with me talking like this
- haven’t heard about this murder…
…I’m here to tell you that you are not ok, love.
Your humanity is badly damaged, and you must reclaim it. You must chase after it with more determination than anything you’ve ever done before. You must go back before all of the messages that told you how to behave and who to believe. You must find that little person inside of you who would have had nightmares watching people who look like our brothers, uncles, and fathers callously take the life of a fellow human. That precious person inside of you is still there. We need that person to claw their way to the surface. Take a gulping breath, and run toward someone else who refuses to go back to that numbed existence.
Our books, podcasts, and one-off events aren’t enough.
- This is sunup to sundown type commitment
- This is eat, sleep, and breathe commitment
- This is me, and you, and all of us commitment
- This is who’s missing, and why don’t we know how to bring them along commitment
- This is by any means necessary commitment
- This is what laws are we willing to break commitment
- This is strengthen the cracks commitment
- This is live to liberate commitment
- This is willing to pay everything until it stops commitment
- This is we are not ok commitment
I know it might sound awful. It may even feel like it.
But I don’t see any other way.
Last night I woke to more weeping. Jomo sobbed and cried out, “They don’t care about us”. The “they” he’s talking about is me. You. Our white community. Until we make it stop, we have not yet cared enough.
We live in a vicious world where mothers dream in violence and fathers wake in the night sobbing truths. Last night, we held each other. Pressed wet faces to each other. Bodies heaving under the weight of another Black life cut short.
I tried to imagine my white community becoming the kind of people who end racism. We must become that kind of people. I’m counting on us. There are so many people counting on us.
No matter where you are in your journey, my intention for writing today is twofold…
To model belief that we can change. So that if there is no one else in your world that is telling the truth while also calling us toward change with a belief that we can, you can read this once or fifty times. We become who we listen to.
To spur belief in yourself that you can change. We cannot ask someone else to transform in ways that we have been unwilling to transform. This requires your belief. That person you’ve been avoiding can change. The one you’ve given up on can change. But first, loved one, it begins with you. Strengthen your belief. For me, it took facing my own self-hatred and realizing that I can only offer counterfeit love to others when I don’t love myself. Face whatever is standing between you and loving yourself. Heal. Grow. Change. Believe.
What I’m not going to do today is spur belief and then flick you back off that cliff you just scaled.
If that’s you and you are scaling this cliff with me, here are a few sturdy rocks to grab onto…
If you choose to watch the video or look at photos of murder…
Do so intentionally. Like going to a funeral. Prepare. Wear mourning clothes. Set aside an hour or two to feel, grieve, and wail. Don’t watch death casually; doing so only numbs your humanity further.
Do not share it on social media because that’s not the place for it. Most of us aren’t on social media because we have two hours to attend a virtual funeral. We are there for fleeting moments of our day. If you want to, you can share a reflection about how you are feeling, but if you do, put a content warning at the top. Posting without one is non-consensual emotional labor.
Then, evaluate your relationship with time…
Your life is already full to overflowing. What if I told you that the system of oppression needs you to stay busy so you can’t see the forest for the trees?
You are programmed. Socially conditioned. Robotic. Dehumanized. Reactive. Moving from one thing to the next. You need to identify what is taking up all of your time so that you know what’s keeping you from becoming who you say you want to become. Leave no minute unexamined.
On a sheet of paper, map out your entire day today. Then yesterday. Then the entire last week. Then the entire last month. Color code them into buckets like family time, work time, rest time, liberation time. Then tape them up on the biggest wall or floor space you’ve got. Get it where you can see it. Don’t skip this – seeing is believing.
What color do you see most? Are you spending your time in alignment with your beliefs about who you say you want to be? If not, what needs to change? This is where you will be forced to make hard choices or keep living out of alignment.
Put yourself in the presence of those who believe we can change…
I cannot stress this enough. And I do mean right now. I don’t need to know everything you are dealing with, and that’s not to say it isn’t important. Friends, if any of those things keep you from being who you say you are or want to be, it’s time to evaluate. The impulse to self-protect is strong. We are working long hours. We are raising kids. We are robbing Peter to pay Paul. We are trying to keep all of the plates spinning. But going it alone will not make this any easier.
It’s ok to pause. Re-evaluate. You hold more power than you even realize. You do not have to participate in this empire.
All of our work at Better Neighbor Lab has the intention of building communal belief among white people that we have a role in liberation movements. The biggest barriers we hear from people are time and money. What both of those have to do with is…comfort. Are you willing to get uncomfortable – be stretched in how you use your resources of time and money in order to be the person you say you are? Do you believe that you are an essential part of the solution we need to create? Please consider joining us. It’s not too late. You belong here.
No matter whether you join something with us or with someone else…get connected and stay engaged. We need you.
Reclaim your humanity…
Scroll back up and re-read the part where I reminded you of that little person inside of you.
Everything around us is feeding us lies. There is a truth inside of you…before all of your conditioning. You must find that and fight to bring it to the forefront and let it speak to how you will live.
If you try to do this without a community of people who are on the same journey – you risk thinking something is your core truth that is actually a particularly sticky dominating pattern. You need people who see you. A community where everyone is committed to the same search and rescue mission of seeing who we are inside of the system of white dominance and urging each other to become the type of people who refuse it.
Submit yourselves to one another. Collectivism over individualism.
That’s all I’ve got for you at the moment.
I love you.
I love us.
I believe in you.
I believe in us.
I’ll see you out there.
no one gets here alone, and I am no different
The brilliant beings who have contributed to these ideas are Jomo Greenidge; Trayvon Martin; Tamir Rice; Velynn Brown; the closet at Essex; Ava DuVernay; the plants, trees, flowers, rocks, and ocean from the top of God's Thumb; Leslie Gray Streeter; Megan Devine; Sarah Covington; Christine Borchert; Lael Petersen; Sunshine Reginald Greenidge; and countless more.