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  • Writer's pictureJ&J

To The Woman With A Face Like Mine:

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Today, I went for a walk.

I ordered from my local coffee shop.

I meandered down roads of my leisurely choosing munching my snack.

I passed construction, nodding at the officer directing traffic who smiled and nodded back.

I plopped myself casually upon a hilly vantage point at the edge of a public park.

I wrote for an hour, undisturbed.

I meandered around a lake and sat to watch a heron.

Last night I went for a run, alone, in the dark.

Perhaps later today, I will go for a drive.

Likely, I will misplace something in my oversized bag - sunglasses, perhaps, or my debit card, or a pen.

I’ll reach into its canvas depths to fish for said lost object.

If I’m near other people, they will either wait patiently while I rummage or pass by undeterred.

Nobody will consider my misplaced phone, pen, or sunglasses a threat.

Nobody will call law enforcement on me for going about my day.

Nobody will shoot me.

Nobody will have to call my mom to tell her what happened.

Ahmaud Aubrey will never get to go on another run. He wasn’t safe participating in a recreational activity on his own. He was murdered by Gregory and Travis McMichael.

George Floyd will never walk into a deli again. A counterfeit $20 cost him his life in the form of brutal suffocation beneath the knee of a 200lb police officer. He was murdered by Derek Chauvin, made possible by the inaction of Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao.

Trayvon Martin will never graduate high school nor enjoy the skittles in his pocket. He was murdered by George Zimmerman.

Breonna Taylor will never save another life because hers was stolen by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and detectives Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison.

These things will never happen to me. If you have a face like mine, they are also unlikely to happen to you because, like me, you are white.

I am white.

As a result of my lineage, no matter what, I am part of deeply ingrained systematic racism.

I repeat, no matter “how good of a white person I am”, I am part of this problem.

I am a white woman.

People will go out of their way to help me.

Although I find this savior complex occasionally annoying, my life is significantly more likely to be protected than snuffed out by anyone I encounter.

I am white

And I have an affinity for words.

People will listen to them.

They will listen to them because the words are strong, but they will also listen because my skin screams of entitlement to privileges I never had to earn. They will listen because, on top of that, I am straight. I am able bodied. I am educated. I am thin. I am extroverted. I am pleasant looking. I have received achievement driven platitudes. All of these things give me extra power. They give me that extra power because, first and foremost, I’m white.

This begs the question - how do I use my words powerfully? I consider feminism my main social justice platform. Systematic Marginalization and Oppression of all varieties is a feminist issue. If you somehow fail to see the connection, let me give a basic framework:

If I believe in justice for all women, that means I believe in justice for Sandra Bland, Michelle Cusseaux and Atatiana Jefferson. I believe in justice for the mothers, wives, sisters, friends, and community of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Alton Sterling.

As a white woman with a white partner and all white family members. I will never need to be worried about any of them taking a walk, looking at birds, playing airsoft, going to church, buying a snack, or sleeping. I can have a concern for my friends, but realistically, that concern doesn’t come with deep seated daily dread. When George Floyd was murdered, I never had to console my weeping mother, wonder if it would be my brother next, or gather any courage to walk out the door to protest knowing fair well that I could casually inform my mum after the fact that I went.

But women who don’t have the luxury of my whiteness? They will have to worry about all of these things for their families and themselves. Forever. They will be tokenized. They will deal with workplace disparities beyond those that disadvantage them due to their womanhood. They will become successful on their own, and then be made a success story out of for someone else’s benefit. They will be held up as prizes of diversity and then forgotten about when it’s no longer convenient. They will be loud, because they don’t have the luxury of being quiet. Then, they will be reprimanded for being loud. They bear the repercussions if any attempts at social justice go awry. Yes, that includes the weight of if MY efforts at contributing to dismantling white supremacy go wrong.

And on top of all this? I BENEFIT from these continued inequalities. Because, as one part of someone’s identity becomes villainized, anyone who doesn’t fit that criterion gains credibility. I would love to say there are no brownie points for my whiteness, but there ARE. As protests and speaking out continue, voices like mine become essential support structures because strength in people who have been marginalized is pinned as unsavory and disproportionate at best, and at worst, discredited as something cute. In a set of systems that has been biased overwhelming in favor of people who look like me, even if I know next to nothing on a topic upon which I speak, my voice is more likely to be heard than those around me who have a lifetime of primary source experience, simply because those words come out of a mouth attached to a face that looks like mine.

If you’ve made it this far, you have chosen to listen to me. Perhaps you chose to listen to me BECAUSE of the reasons listed above. Regardless of your reason, I implore you to take this post as a door knob. A door knob isn’t the door, nor is it the doorway. If we just look at the doorknob, it really is a useless thing, made simply for decoration, pleasantries, and unrealized utility. It’s necessary to turn the doorknob. That turning leads to an opening. But simply having the opening isn’t enough either. It’s the choices we make next that begin to matter.

Below are some resources composed and compiled by sources much more informed both by way of research and lived experience, than anything I can offer you by my own hand.

If you look like me, take heed, and step inside:

10 Individual Resources:

NPR’s Code Switch Podcast

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

The Dance Union Podcast

The Death of George Floyd in Context (New Yorker Article)

How Cash Bail is Tied to Systematic Racism (Paper Magazine Article)

Are You “Virtue Signaling?”(NY Times Article)

Dear White People: Here Are 10 Actions You Can Take To Promote Racial Justice In The Workplace (Forbes Article)

Becoming an Anti-Racist White Ally (Perspectives on Urban Education - Spring 2009)

White people can compartmentalize police brutality. Black people don’t have the luxury. (Washington Post)

Harvard’s Project Implicit: a series of tests to see where your unconscious biases lie

7 More Comprehensive Lists:

Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers

How You Can Be an Ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement

75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice

43 Bail Funds You Can Absolutely Support Right Now

For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies

Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Round Up

18 Podcasts that Confront Racism in America

Black Lives Matter Protest, Boston MA, 31 May 2020

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