How do I live in a way that effects change in as many areas as possible? How must I be aware of institutional barriers going up? In what ways must I be very intentional and purposeful? I’m really conscious of being a white woman, knowing I could very easily show up someplace and be like, ‘I’m here! Aren’t you happy I’m here? Let me help you!’ That’s part of the reason I haven’t engaged in things like going to volunteer in Ferguson. I haven’t participated in a protest. It wasn’t until about three months ago that I put a Black Lives Matter sign in my front yard. Those didn’t seem like the best ways for me to be an ally. But I felt like I had legitimate skills to serve on the Forward Through Ferguson board. It was a way for me to engage with others who are doing the work, and get support to process and figure out where I can be most helpful. Where am I most wanted, and needed?
In some ways, it’s okay to believe in racial equity in private. It’s okay to say it on Facebook and somebody unfriends you. Even putting a Black Lives Matter sign in my south St. Louis front garden — that’s very, very, very small — but it’s also a very public declaration in a place where it’s preferred that you do so privately. I’ve spent the nearly two years since Michael Brown was murdered trying to understand the complexity not just of what’s become known as ‘Ferguson,’ but more deeply, issues of diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice, the institutionalization of white supremacy, and my personal responsibility relative to all these things. I’ve had some conversations, but not often or in-depth enough. I’ve tweeted, shared, liked, and commented. I have a stack of books. I subscribe to the blogs and read the articles. I want to do more.
While there’s been a lot of conversation about inclusion and diversity, there’s really been no conversation specific to racial equity in my immediate work settings until the last two months or so. That’s a quantum leap. In some ways, inclusion and diversity aren’t really well understood. Now we’re wrestling with racial equity to ask, ‘What are we really responsible for? Who are we really responsible to? What does it mean when we’re saying all of these words?’