Like religion and politics, race has become a taboo subject that people don’t want to talk about. But we need to talk about it!
Over the past few weeks, many of my White friends and co-workers have been reaching out to me with compassion in their heart asking me two basic questions: What can I do? and How can I help?
Many of them have been touched by recent racially charged incidents such as the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man from Georgia who was killed while jogging. Then came Amy Cooper the White woman in Central Park who called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black man who was lawfully watching birds, while she illegally unleashed her dog. She told the police that he was threatening her life. Fortunately, the video that Christian was taking told the truth. Then came George Floyd, the man who was suspected of committing a $20 forgery crime, who died after a police officer put his knee on his throat for 8 minutes and 46 seconds…he couldn’t breath, and then he died!
My responses to my friends and co-workers have been pretty straight forward:
Invest some time and energy in getting self-educated by reading books and watching documentaries that tell the other side of the story. Quite honestly, much of what we learned in American History class in middle and high school was a one-sided story. A friend of mine starting reading the book Waking Up White by Debby Irving where he found this quote, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” (Daniel J. Boorstin) That’s a powerful statement on ignorance—education helps to remove ignorance from your life.
After you start to learn a little, invest some time and energy in having some open and honest conversations with some people of color, whether one on one or in a small group. Notice I said “some” conversations. I probably should have suggested “many” conversations, but “one” conversation is definitely not enough! We all have stories to share. Have a heart to listen with empathy to get a better understanding of what it is like to live as a Black person in America. Through the telling of stories, we can learn from each other and develop relationships that will enrich our lives and impact generations to come to think and act differently than we have in the past.
If you SEE something, if you HEAR something, you must SAY something. Having a White person become an ally to people of color is what it is going to take to make change possible. You need to be able to hold yourself and others accountable for the words they say, the actions they take, the laws they legislate, the judgements they implement. Wrong is wrong, no matter the color of your skin. But if you don’t speak out against it, the problem will continue.
A few weeks ago, we had a dynamic open and honest conversation on race in Salmon Brook Park. It was intended to be a “Lunch and Learn” session, but interestingly no one brought their lunch—we all gathered together (with appropriate social distancing) to just talk about race. Whether you join us at the next gathering or start your own conversations, be courageous and keep the conversation going. I believe that’s what it takes to impact change on race relations in America.
Ken Mouning and his family have been Granby residents since 2004. He is a Director at UBS Realty Investors, LLC in Hartford. He is a current board member of the Granby Rovers Soccer Club and GMHS Athletic Booster Club. He has also served as a member of the Granby Board of Education Equity Taskforce and is a former member of the Granby Education Foundation board.