Newsletter editor Lily here.
I’ve been thinking about this piece by Tiffany Dockery explaining why people need to stop just “checking in” with Black co-workers and acquaintances ever since we featured it in last Friday’s Mama Bear newsletter.
In particular, these four sentences are some of the most impactful I’ve seen on the subject: “Let go of the desire to be seen as good (read: not racist) people. We live in a racist society with coded messages of Black inferiority all around us. We all have internalized racism. None of us can be good, so let’s focus on being effective.”
In talking to friends, especially those who are trying to confront racist family members or other loved ones, there’s a tendency to want to qualify a person’s racism with some form of “but they’re a good person.” I found myself trying to play a similar game of mental gymnastics earlier this week when I was thinking about some of the complicity perpetuated by my favorite teacher in high school (“But she promoted so many women in STEM! She was supportive of LGBTQ+ people! She was so cool!” I initially countered internally) and thought back to Dockery’s words. It’s not about who’s “good” or “nice” or any of these empty platitudes.
People have the ability to do good and to do harm, and the systems we’re born into can further contribute to the harm we cause; the people we love are no exception. And when we stop trying to act like those in our lives aren’t capable of doing both (and in fact, doing more harm than good, even if the good really benefitted us), it’s almost as if a weight’s been lifted. The puzzle over “but is this a good person?” has left my mind. And while the focus right now is on anti-Blackness sentiment (as it should be), this framework is one I’m going to take as I approach fighting all forms of discrimination and marginalization in the future.
It’s not about being good or being seen as good by the “correct” people. It’s about being effective in driving progress forward and participating in dismantling oppressive systems.
I’m grateful to Tiffany Dockery for this mindset shift.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- Fun Pride activities for queer kids during lockdown?
- Anyone struggling with a kid who DOESN’T WANT to go back to school in the fall?