I had an idea – what if it was mandatory for white Americans to write a letter of apology to black Americans? The purpose – for some white people to examine where we haven’t been strong enough allies and why we need to work harder. For others – to take a deep dive into some serious behavior changes and apologies.
I understand that no amount of letters could ever pay reparation for how black Americans have been mistreated in our country. I also understand that I am white and some might see this exercise as pointless and maybe naïve. I found it to be rewarding.
Writing is healing, so what if we (white people) gave it a try to see where our letters take us? ALL of us.
I envision stacks of letters filling up homes, schools, universities, churches, temples, offices, prisons, mailboxes, in-boxes and museums. Each letter representing action we as white people are taking to see that black Americans have the same opportunities as white Americans and are no longer dying from police brutality.
My letter starts with, “Dear Black Americans, I am sorry.” I examine moments in my life where I could have been a stronger ally and it was eye opening for me. I was ready to post the letter today, but I had this nagging sense of white privilege and from my work with Rachel Cargle, I know that the last thing black Americans need right now is another white person’s self-improvement plan. Black Americans just need us to get to work.
Being an ally isn’t enough. We need to be hard working smart allies. Which is why, like many of you, I have been stepping up my role by reading, watching and learning more.
In my own letter I got real with myself and called myself out on things that date back to grade school. It didn’t feel good. It felt uncomfortable. It’s our turn to feel uncomfortable. That’s where the work begins.
And at the same time, we can’t stay silent for fear of saying the wrong thing. A huge mistake white people make. I made that mistake in college when I never walked in the Association of Black Collegians, a gathering place for black students, because I felt awkward, privileged and too white. I am positive I missed out on experiences that would have shaped my life as well as many valued friendships.
We should never be scared of saying the wrong thing, feeling awkward or being too white to cross the street, the hall, the bridge or knock on a door and say hello. That is what allies do. We need to seriously step up here.
And as we step up in so many places, I’m looking forward – forward to changes white people are making, including me.
I’m looking forward to new leadership, laws changing and people and police being held accountable for their actions.
I am looking forward to my black and brown girlfriends not having to worry about their husbands, sons and nephews being stopped by police and being beaten or killed or have police come to their homes and shoot their daughters.
I am looking forward to all Americans saluting the flag because the flag includes everyone, not just white Americans.
To my African American, black and brown friends – if I make mistakes (and I will) please call me out on it. I am ready.
You will always have an ally in me.
PS – I am happy to share my letter with whoever wants to read it. Message me. And please, write one too.