The ECLC Team
Please find below a message from Jane Feinberg, Founder/Principal of Full Frame Communications that was recently shared at the ECLC Race, Identity, Systems Exploration (RISE) Series virtual meeting on June 2nd. Jane opened the meeting in response to a Connections Question, ("who are you/where are you?") with the following remarks on the killing of George Floyd:
How are you? Where are you?
At the May 19 session (of Race, Identity, Systems Exploration), my response to the Connections question “how are you, where are you?” was focused on Covid-19, my gratitude for the fact of my privilege—plentiful food, a home, time with my family, and good health—and the keen awareness that People of Color were disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus. Today, it is a virus of a different sort that is commanding my every waking hour: the virus of racism in America that has once again been exposed by the death of George Floyd.
Who are we as a nation that, 400 years after the institution of slavery began in this country, we persist in maintaining the fiction that a Black human being is viewed as less valuable than a White one? Who made these rules and why? Deep down, I think we all know that, at its core, White America’s racial problem is about power and control. Power to call the shots, control over the destiny of others.
The time is long past due for White people to reckon with America’s original sin. Most of us want to do the right thing. Most of us are not “bad racists.”. But all of us breathe the air and drink the water of racism. It is bred in the bone from the time we are born—the invisible assumptions that White is normative and Black and Brown are deviant, the presence of “the other” as a way of securing our own superior position in the social hierarchy. Racism is a social construct created for the purpose of maintaining power and control. Our entire society is structured around this convenient fiction; it denies People of Color their full humanity through policies and practices that are so endemic to the fabric of society that we can’t even see them for what they are: human-created structures that reify and reinforce superiority. And when those very structures choke off opportunity for Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, society blames them, the victims, for the predicament White people have created and sustained.
Under these circumstances, the protests that glue us to the television should not surprise us, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said so eloquently: “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”
I am usually more measured with my words with White educators because I believe strongly that blame and shame leads no one to learn and grow. But on the heels of the last week in particular, and because I am immersed in studying how race and education intersect, I feel the need to use stronger language today. I am not blaming or shaming any individual for what hangs thickly in the ether; what I am doing is asking you to join me on a journey of righting these wrongs. I have committed to be on this path for the rest of my life, and I invite you to do so as well.
As you know, I was born and reared in Minneapolis, and last Thursday night, I sat glued to CNN, watching my city—and then many other cities—erupt in flames, a long-repressed expression of the pain of not being seen or heard as fully human.
On the one hand, I am relieved that some of the pressure has been released, that what lurked for so long under the surface is out in the open, that “Minnesota Nice” was exposed for its superficiality. Without exposure, racial healing cannot happen. There is no treatment without diagnosis. The infection is ours to heal.
I pray that we use this painful moment in our nation’s history to pause and reflect—and then to act. Let those of us who care deeply about children and families, begin to disrupt the racism that is rampant around us. Let us reach out to our Black, Brown, and Indigenous brothers and sisters—to hold space for them, to listen intently.
I ask that White Americans come to terms with America’s original sin and help other White folks do the same. Neither shame nor blame is needed, but it does mean we must take responsibility for the present and the future. Our job is to expose the social fiction that has been propagated on our and our forefathers’ and foremothers’ watch. Let us correct that narrative together by opening our hearts and minds, by understanding that our own vulnerability and our humility are our greatest assets in righting a 400-year wrong.