Try to imagine it: in what possible scenario could two black men, armed with a shotgun and a .357 magnum, trail me, a white man, during my 2.23 mile run, shoot and kill me, and not be arrested?
I am not sure such a scenario could even exist in the modern-day United States of America – and yet, if you switch the skin colors, it did happen.
This fact kept running through my head as I ran around our beautiful city park today and contemplated the life and death of Ahmaud Arbery.
All of this helped me understand that I benefit from – and too often take for granted – being white in America.
I can, for example, go for a run in the park with no worries for my safety. I’m grateful for this benefit, and I want the same for all Americans – in fact, all human beings everywhere.
James Baldwin, said: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
I humbly believe it is time for white people to face the forces in our culture that prefer us, that support us, that enrich us – and ask why this is so. While I enjoy the benefits I receive and the trust people put in me, I cannot truly love and accept them if the same benefits and trust are not given to all.
How can it be that black people make up 13% of the US population, but 39% of people killed by police while not attacking? How can it be that infant mortality rates are nearly twice as high for black mothers as they are for white mothers? How can 87% of white students graduate from high school, while 79% of black students graduate from high school?
When you truly consider the statistics on race in our country, you can see the glaring disparities they present, and you can only come to one conclusion. Our systems – economic, educational, medical, jurisprudential – must prefer some people in a very deep, entrenched, and, at times, unconscious way for this to be our reality and for all of us to continue living with it.
We must learn to live without it – or better yet, to extend those same privileges and presumptions to all people. After all, as the Baha’i teachings tell us, we are one:
… work on with heart and soul and put forth a mighty effort, until the ramparts of dissension are toppled down and the glories of the oneness of humanity lead all to unity. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
Education would seem to be the fastest way to start achieving that unity. So, I’m going to try to educate myself. In pursuit of that goal, I’ve read Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson and Becoming by Michelle Obama. Next, I’m reading Solitary by Albert Woodfox and then White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.
I’m also going to continue supporting our neighborhood Baha’i children’s class and junior youth group to learn more about making this gorgeous quote from Baha’u’llah real for everyone: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”