How many times have you tried to explain to people at work, the university, or the neighborhood playground that the sentence that just came out of their mouth is racist? How many times have you tried to prove to people that racism wasn’t a thing of the past? Truly and honestly, how many times have you come out of this kind of conversation feeling really understood?
Toni Morrison, a groundbreaking author and thinker in US American Black literature, describes one of racism’s functions as follows:
“The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
(From a 1975 panel in Portland University)
One of the core goals of Call.Activit as an organization is creating a Black space, where we don’t have to explain or prove our experiences. In fact, this is why our organization was established. Each and every one of us needed this type of space, and when we first met, we realized just how much we were missing it. It freed us of the need to explain, correct, counterbalance, it freed us of the distraction that Toni Morrison was talking about.
Last Thursday (4.9), we organized a meeting on the Hagra Community Center’s awesome balcony, to discuss the question “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about racism.” This is a complex question, which we were inspired to ask by UK journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.” The book offers a new approach to discussions on racism: setting boundaries for the discussion, and setting rules for those taking part in it. This decision has the power to bring back a sense of control to people exposed to racism, and to create personal and collective empowerment.
The meeting raised complex thoughts and responses around this question. We succeeded in creating a space where people shared their personal feelings and spoke to the personal price that racism makes us pay. We want to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who showed up, shared, and thought together.❤