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I can remember just about 50 years ago the last of the White families moving out of the neighborhood my family lived in forever on Chicago’s southeast side. Using the code words of “property values” and “the schools getting bad” these white families were afraid to be honest – they did not want to live in a neighborhood with Black neighbors.
So, we all must ask – has anything changed over a half century? I can remember just around 25 years ago when I worked in the Minneapolis Public Schools engaged with colleagues on our Anti-Racism initiative, as educators and community members realized that something had to change in the relationships between People of Color and White people.
So, we all must ask – has anything changed in the last quarter century? These past few days in the Twin Cities, and in cities across the country, shows how much more work we have to do. For those of us who are White, we must recognize that our Black neighbors do not have 50 more years of hoping – they are done with our laments – and they need to see our commitments and our actions now.
I am proud to have been part of a school community that proactively created an anti-racism agenda over the past five years in the Evanston public schools to address racial equity through a series of activities to address systemic institutional racism, including required racial identity training for all staff.
And yet even with this work underway, there is still so much more that has to be done, so much more hard work that we as White people, that I as a White person, must do to support our neighbors, our co-workers, our communities. And that starts with listening, with truly understanding the pain that has been and is being suffered, and by remembering and repeating to ourselves over and over again the names of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Philando Castile and Sandra Bland and Freddy Gray and Trayvon Martin and LaQuan McDonald, and too too many others.
We must stop the use of code words and clichés that shift attention from the hard work we must do, I must do, to change the structures that perpetuate institutional racism and White supremacy. There is no time to waste. The time to act is now. As White people we must show that we care.