What To Say

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Social media has been full of people struggling to find appropriate words for the anguish that rose in our guts last week.  So much loss, so much anger and mistrust, too many guns. What can any of us do?

Maybe instead of asking ourselves what to say, we should ask, what to read?  If you’re white and struggling with meaningful ways to respond to last week’s shootings, you could start by understanding how your skin color provides you with a privilege that’s probably invisible to you but that’s had a powerful influence on your life.

Read “White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” the 1989 article by Peggy McIntosh that has served as a seminal piece to help educate white people who strive to be allies with communities of color.  Doing ally work means understanding the ways in which whiteness has allowed you to move through the world with a freedom and lack of fear not available to people of color.

Then listen to the Code Switch podcast “Can We Talk About Whiteness” which includes an interview with Peggy McIntosh.  And while you’re there, subscribe to Code Switch, an excellent podcast that explores “race and identity, remixed.”  Keep the learning going.

Read two recent books that speak directly about the experience of being black in the United States, from both a woman and man’s point of view.  Citizen by Claudia Rankine is brilliant and startling, that she lives with so much overt racism everyday.  Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is Coates’ letter to his son about the very real and often lethal danger that faces black boys and men in our country.

We all need to step closer to understanding how profoundly race affects people of color in the U.S.  Black lives matter.

 

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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