By Billy Osogo
“Educate, Empathize and Empower all!”
That was the comment by my friend SnapDragon X on my previous piece. A brilliant choice of words, if I do so say myself! As I mentioned heretofore, the subject of racism is one that we must continue to have genuine conversations on.
Educating yourself, allows you empathize which puts you in a prime position to empower. In my questing to educate myself on racism, one of the most resourceful books I have come across is So You Want To Talk About Race. It’s written by Ijeoma Oluo.
Here are five lessons from this book. My contribution to educating, empathizing and empowering all.
“Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.”
‘I don’t see color’= Bullshit
“We are, each and everyone of us, a collection of our lived experiences. Our lived experiences shape us, how we interact with the world, and how we live in the world. And our experiences are valid. Because we do not experience the world with only part of ourselves, we cannot leave our racial identity at the door.”
Racism is systemic
“So much of what we think and feel about people of other races is dictated by our system, and not our hearts. Who we see as successful, who has access to that success, who we see as scary, what traits we value in society, who we see as “smart” and “beautiful” – those perceptions are determined by our proximity to the cultural values of the majority in power, the economic system of those in power, the education system of those in power, the media outlets of those in power.”
Check Your Privilege
“Privilege in the social justice context, is an advantage or set of advantages that you have that others do not. These advantages can often be ascribed to social groups: privilege based on race, physical ability, gender, class etc.
When someone asks you to “check your privilege”, they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas are keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing, and may in fact be contributing to those struggles. “
Why You Should Check Your Privilege
“When we are willing to check our privilege, we are not only identifying areas where we are perpetuating oppression in order to stop personally perpetuating that oppression, but we are also identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole. When we identify where out privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”
Lastly, I draw strength from the words of President Obama, himself, a victim of overt racism:
“We have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem but we can get something meaningful done.”
What has life taught you about racism?
How can we build a less racist world?
What do you know now about racism that you didn’t before?
Remember General’s SnapDragon’s charge: Educate, empathize, empower!