White People… What Say You?

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White friends, colleagues, peers, and neighbors –

White people who played with me as a child and sent well-wishes to my parents –

White people who invited me to your homes and welcomed me at your tables –

White people who were friends with my sister and had drinks with my Dad –

White people who prayed beside my Grandmother and worked beside my Mom –

White people who voted for Obama and voted for Trump –

White people who made room on public transit and held open elevator doors –

White people I know and white people I don’t –

White people who have power and white people who won’t –

White people in general –

What. Say. You.

What say you?

As the President of the United States wages verbal and political violence in your name, what say you?

As he reorders our democracy to enshrine white nationalist power, what say you?

As he retells a story of America that places you, and you alone, in positions of moral and political authority, what say you?

And what are you doing?

Are you silent and on the sidelines, unscathed by the vitriol because you are unsupportive of its arbiter?

Do you grapple with this violence, both rhetorical and physical, meted for your racial advancement or is your struggle brief?

How does it feel to be white in the midst of a white supremacist insurgence in America?

Do you hope to passively benefit from language that resurrects a nation where only white people belong or hold political power?

How are you making sense of the ways hateful, racist words make it fundamentally easier for people who look like you to move in this country and feel free?

Are you comfortable in spaces at home, in community, at work, school, and church where only people who look like you can be safe and thrive?

What do you see as your responsibility, right now, in this very moment, as the President of the United States articulates and executes a political agenda that limits the rights and protections of all kinds of people, simply because they are not you?

And what do you say to other white people, especially those who will never ascend to theĀ  power or wealth that Trump’s whiteness promises? What do you say to those whom whiteness is failing?

White people, what, if anything, in these dire political times, do you feel compelled to say or do?

I ask these questions honestly and earnestly and with a bit of impatience. I ask them with the full intent that at least some white people will respond.

If you would like to respond publicly, I invite you to my twitter thread in which some white folks have already spoken. Or if you feel so inclined, sound off in these comments below.

And if you know me in real life, I invite you to call me. Text me. Email me.

Say. Something.

Whether I see you in clinic, in the grocery store, or in my gym, I need to know where you stand.

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The Room to Wait

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The president-elect’s victory, and the tacit validation of his divisive and dangerous rhetoric and policy proposals, challenges those who call themselves liberals to be the values they espouse. Until 2 weeks ago, those values came at little cost. Aside from the news you read, the company you keep, and the places you buy produce, the daily politics of American life were, for many, comfortably cosmetic and consumer-oriented – simple public identities crafted by the items you purchase, relationships you explore, and content you share online. Then, Americans elected a xenophobic candidate who ran on an openly Islamophobic platform and has since designated overtly racist, nationalist, sexist, and homophobic advisors and federal appointees.

This. Is. The. Wake. Up. Call.

I fear we are missing it.

Despite eruptions of private emotions, public protests, and hashtags du jour, in the short 11 days since the election, some have returned to their daily lives, unscathed, and continue their daily work, unchanged. Perhaps seeking emotional refuge from their liberal outbursts, they hasten calls for stability rather than quicken the pace of resistance. They find room to wait while the marginalized among us live under the threat of violence, displacement, internment, and the insidious affront to their rights and their America that is hate speech and hate crimes that go unacknowledged and unatoned. This form of liberalism is privilege incarnate. It is the white tears that dry quickly, the fickle fetish of media sensationalism, the limited attention that only spans the interests and people that look and feel like “us” or “them,” and the normalization of public exclusion in the most powerful democracy in the world.

There is literally no time to waste. And every moment a “liberal” person, organization, or institution spends calling for caution in place of critique, pause instead of preparation, and waiting as opposed to imminent action are lost opportunities to defend the values and people liberals’ claim to hold dear.

This includes hospitals, and other public entities erected in service of community. “Carry on” attitudes that simply re-assert an existing mission without delineating concrete plans to defend or extend that mission should allied populations be endangered, are frankly not enough. And should employees fall victim to local or federal aggression, they offer no protection at all. If progress relies on accurate recognition of the problems, “carry on” stances silence the uncomfortable realities, conversations, and sacrifices required to look those problems in the face.

It is not alarmist to get prepared. And that preparation entails mobilizing the volume of resources necessary to support a diverse set of populations who now worry for their safety and security in this country. If the urgency of that need is somehow lost on you, don’t hide behind your liberal leanings and co-opt progress.

To Plan:

  • Place those most affected in positions to advise and lead how organizations respond to new needs or evolving threats facing the populations it serves.
  • Anticipate the needs of clients or patients with intersecting identities and consider forming coalitions with organizations best equipped to serve needs that may fall outside given expertise or capacity.
  • Vulnerable populations can be employed in positions that offer the least schedule flexibility. Consider adjusting those constraints as needs to care for family may rival needs to be present in the workplace.
  • Consider a buddy system or a phone tree between employees to increase the visibility of those worried about their ability to get to and from work safely.
  • Consider creating a safe space for affected employees to seek emotional or legal counsel should the need arise.
  • Consider supporting organizations that champion the needs of the marginalized with donations or service, and if possible, reflect their needs in joint legislative agendas.

The challenge liberals are facing is a kind of active democracy many have never known and it may be painstaking and overwhelming. It is also a burden people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and other marginalized groups have carried, often silently and alone, for years, centuries, as the spaces to publicly express, wear, and own their person-hood is narrowed.

Vigilance is too often inherited through wounds endured. For those who now find themselves unaffected or disaffected, it is time to ask, how many wounds must be sustained for you to move from the waiting room to hold space for action?