This is a letter that I never wanted to write to you. I’m not sure that I can even articulate everything that I want to say, but it is a start. Silence is not an option.
I wanted to start this letter by describing my background and my experiences as a white woman, except it is not about me. There are no justifications, excuses, or qualifications for what I’m about to say.
This letter really isn’t about you either. You have never been treated differently because of the color of your skin. You have never been scared, ashamed, felt threatened, or made fun of because you are white. Your skin color is not something you have to think about when you leave the house, when you go to school, or when you get in trouble.
So, what is it about? It’s about my hopes for you. The work I need you to do. What we all need to keep doing, or even start doing.
First, I want you to listen. Really listen. I don’t just want you to hear phrases, sayings, and rhetoric. I want you to figure out the message. Don’t form an opinion or think of an argument right away. Think about the meanings behind those words, the context, and the background. Consider the source and do your research.
Next, I want you to have empathy. You may not understand how it feels to be treated differently because of your skin color, but you can do your best to put yourself in someone else’s position. You can really dig deep and experience those emotions. You may never be in the same situation as someone else, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel those things.
Which leads me to compassion and action. Listening and understanding are important, but they are not nearly enough. You need to speak up when you see someone being treated badly. You need to challenge authority and do what is right. It is never right to hurt someone, whether it’s with words or physical violence, because of the color of their skin.
See and embrace those differences. Black and brown is beautiful. We are not all the same, do not come from the same backgrounds, and seeing those physical differences is important.
Remember, it’s OK to ask questions and not know the correct answers to everything, but you must do the work yourself. You can’t rely on your black and brown friends to do that for you.
It’s also OK to feel uncomfortable. That discomfort you may feel while you are questioning things, ideas, or people will pass. Remember that your black and brown friends feel uncomfortable (or worse) a lot of the time because of how they are treated.
I hope I’ve given you a strong foundation to lean back on, but there is always room to learn and grow. Never stop. Be better.