This week I can’t just post a regular blog post in our Creative Genius You series. I feel too strongly about what we are experiencing in the US right now. I am cancelling my usual content. I’ve been reading, learning, supporting and thinking about my own white privilege. It is up to all of us to recognize and support the Black Lives Matter movement, not just this week, but every day. I had not been doing that. It’s sad that it took the murder of George Floyd to wake us up, but here we are. I have been blinded by my own privilege and I pledge to do better.
Before George Floyd was murdered, when I was in full pandemic-mode, I created this cartoon about COVID19…
It was my way of talking about what we are experiencing with each other - the discomfort of the masks, the awkwardness of social distancing. I had no idea that it was about so much more until I posted it and my friend Cynthia commented that she was uncomfortable with all the likes it was generating. I called her to find out what I was missing.
Clearly, I was missing a lot. My conscious mind had created a doodle of what I was seeing in the world - people not hearing each other because of the masks and not able to breathe (that’s actually how I feel wearing a mask). But why did I make the person with difficulty breathing, a person of color? And who was that white woman not hearing? My privilege enabled me to create this drawing, without ever consciously thinking about race. It allowed me to post the drawing without thinking about its broader cultural context. My conversation with Cynthia woke me up. My drawing made it look like I support something that I unequivocally do not. It was unintentionally insensitive, and I am using the term unintentional not to absolve myself of blame, but to highlight the amount of work I have to do.
Let’s be clear, I grew up during bussing and my whole world has been shaped in a positive way by my experience learning in a multicultural environment. But unless I openly stand up and say something, put a caption on my cartoon, acknowledge my own unconscious bias AND privilege as a white woman, aren’t I upholding a racist system? I am. That realization has shocked and upset me.
Are you the white woman in this cartoon? How often do you stand back and let others work it out? When I illustrate for a room filled with white men and simply add people of color to my drawing, is that helping the situation, really?
How about I actually ask in advance about the diversity of participants and refuse to work with a room filled with just white people? How about I continue to educate myself and amplify black voices? How about I engage more with local community officials and push for positive change?
What’s your plan to support change? If you are wondering what you can do take a page from this woman’s blog post on Medium: White People Do Something or create a post to share your discomfort with what is happening. Question your own unconscious bias. Read and learn about the history of race in America. Give books to your library and schools, your neighbor’s children written by people of color. Look around in every meeting you are in. If people of color are not represented there and it’s a community event, find out why that is.
We need to challenge racial inequality and make that shift to our new reality. We need to work on it now and continue working on it long into the future. We are all a part of this. So, when you finish reading this, go do something. Today. This minute, right now. Thank you.
Big love to all of you,