Systemic Means Everywhere, and Radical Means from the Root

Good afternoon.

I am writing this short post in sadness and solidarity, and with regard and resolve.

Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 edited collection of essays, The Fire This Time. A New Generation Speaks About Race, is dedicated to Trayvon Martin and includes pieces by Ward, Garnette Cadogan, Edwidge Danticat, Claudia Rankine, Clint Smith, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kevin Young, among many others.  It is no accident that many of the authors who contribute essays “say their names”—the names of black people killed by white people, and in too many cases, by white police officers in the United States.  Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Atatiana Jefferson, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and a frighteningly long etcetera. The authors recognize the flare of anger, the Black Lives Matter chants and protests, the all-too-quick calming, or forgetting, of the public, and the repetition of this violent, racist, never-ending cycle.  When I read the collection (for the 50 Ways Rockbridge Racial Justice book group), I was not surprised by the general physical, intellectual, and spiritual exhaustion that sighed between and behind the lines of each essay, but I was taken by how each author expressed with such patience and humanity their deep frustration and sadness surrounding white power structures in United States institutions. When I write about sexism, misogyny, and intersectional struggles, I rarely manage such grace and eloquence.  And now, in these racist United States, I think that grace and eloquence are fine, and so are impatience and radical change.

Radical, etymologically telling us to foment change from the root.  Radical, meaning in the streets.  Radical, meaning in intimate settings in which you don’t put up with friends’ and colleagues’ racist bullshit.  Radical, meaning in the textbooks and at your school.  Radical, meaning broad racial representation at every level of every organization. Radical, meaning at the ballot box.  Radical, meaning black power. Radical, meaning no more police departments made into white war machines. Radical, meaning we also remember the violence enacted against black women. Radical, meaning it is more than a century and a half past the time when white people were supposed to radically account for and reckon with colonialism and colonial legacies that continue to insist upon white supremacy and the dehumanization of other races. Radical, meaning from the root.

Since 50 Ways Rockbridge’s slogan is “Research, Educate, Act,” I will share here some of the resources people have so generously posted on social media and/or that we have used for programming in our area.  I am deeply grateful to my friends and colleagues who are people of color who somehow continue this fight against white supremacy and this reckoning with white privilege. Thank you for your time, your activism, and your humanity. I thank many white people who have joined this fight as well (in my world, mostly white women; we must change this). For us white people, it is way past time to donate, if you can, read, learn, and act.

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