Learning and Listening: Identifying My Blind Spots and Committing to Growth

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

The words smacked me in the face. The conclusion of Harvard’s implicit bias study.

Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for European American children compared to African American children.

The problem was, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Yet, I thought I would be immune. I’m married to a black man — one who has given talks on the very subject of Implicit Bias. I have a son and daughter who are biracial. I was born and raised in New York City, the epicenter of the “melting pot,” where I lived for just over three decades.

Unfortunately, this is where racism starts. Our ignorance thinking that we are the exception. That the statistics don’t apply to us. I personally thought this way because I was surrounded by many others who were of non-white backgrounds growing up. But how often did I really process the negative experiences others encountered based on their skin color? When I first encountered the mention of George Floyd on social media, I immediately wanted to look the other way. It made me think — How many times have I looked the other way when there was a news story I would rather not view? How much regarding the history of racism in our country had I learned growing up? I realize now this is a privilege. I can choose to control the timing of my exposure to such tragedy, but many others cannot.

LISTEN: Father Bryan Massingale on Racism and the Way Forward

Following the recent murders that have been brought to light in our country, I now realize this is a task that I can’t complete overnight, in a month, or even a year. Being white, I have had the privilege to pick and choose when I want to open my eyes and ears, depending on the season of my life. This must end now. Bettering myself must be a lifelong commitment. I owe it to myself, my family and friends, and to those who have so much less than I do through no fault of their own.

Thanks to the recent events sparked by the COVID-19 virus, I have been forcefully reminded of the gift of time. With this gift, I have the responsibility to serve God not just through prayer and family time, but in service and learning so I can become a more loving and understanding member of the human family. I have made a new goal to read at least one article on race-relations every day. I hope I can keep such conversations always going, rather than just for a few days, weeks, or one month a year.

RELATED: Faith in Action: Resources for Today’s Anti-Racist Catholic

Here are few of the resources I’ve found helpful so far: 

Websites and discussion groups

Both BetheBridge.com and its accompanying Facebook group have such great resources, including materials specifically designed for white people and people of color. I could probably easily spend months there alone. The nonprofit organization was founded four years ago by Latasha Morrison with the goals “to encourage racial reconciliation among all ethnicities, to promote racial unity in America, and to equip others to do the same.” Another organization helpful to parents specifically is Embracerace.org. Both groups regularly offer workshops and discussion forums.

State government sources

Thanks to a recent viral post, I have been learning about the current laws addressing discrimination in my home state of New Jersey, from police officers making safe traffic stops, to that of mandatory minimum sentences and solitary confinement in prisons. I realize there is still so much work left to do to address racial discrimination. Signing petitions and contacting congressional leaders will be a vital step in making change on a larger level.

The Catholic Church

The USCCB has a section on their website devoted to combating racism. This has been updated with recent statements made by Pope Francis as well as Bishop Shelton Fabre, who was a major contributor to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism. The letter is just one of many examples from the Church  readily available to give us a framework for  how we as Catholics can work toward ending racism.

I cannot be color-blind. I must speak up if I truly want to see change.

I owe it to my husband to learn more about what’s he’s seen, both as a child psychiatrist who spent the last five years serving in New York City’s Juvenile Detention Centers, and as one of eight black children, each of whom have encountered struggles in their own lives solely because of the color of their skin.

I owe it to my children, to embrace that they will inevitably face different life circumstances than I had. I will have to have difficult conversations with them that I did not need to face when younger and innocent. 

I am a wife and mother who needs to protect my family. 

I am a white woman who needs to recognize my blind spots. 

Most importantly, I am Catholic. Our faith calls us to help those suffering from the injustice of racism, and support programs that promote healing and reconciliation. 

To love others first, as Christ loved me.