Skip links

Why Race Matters ~ Susan Bryant

My friend, Susan Bryant, shared this post on Facebook on February 17, 2018. She wrote it before joining a group, #unitedinlove. This gathering was a counter-protest in the face of a white supremacist presenting at the university where she works. Susan eloquently points to some of the struggles associated with race along with an invitation for deeper reflection.

As I continue to reflect on Susan’s piece, I am drawn to contemplate the polarized points of tension contributing to our cultural discord she illuminates. Stay tuned for a continued exploration of these points as they relate to empathy.

Why Race Matters

As I prepare to head to the events of the day, as our university prepares to address hate, I want to share some thoughts. They may be lengthy. You’re surely not surprised.

Race matters to me because I have a unique opportunity to live diversity on a daily basis and experience many blessings from it when we are able to do it well. I have 3 beautiful children who need parents who are willing to try to do it well. And because we sometimes do, I wish everyone could experience it.

I have come to understand ways in which our systems oppress and hurt us. Race is one of those ways. I see my children struggle with it on all sides, and they have from their earliest days. I struggle with them.

When those of us who are white haven’t had the opportunity to experience it, we can’t see it. I grew up with many of you in a place where we did not have that opportunity. But it doesn’t mean it’s not true, or ever present. It doesn’t mean we can’t come to understand our privilege and work to change it or use it for good.

Our systems have been designed deliberately to enable some and to crush others. As long as we continue to make it personal, to get stuck in our own shame of a terrible history (white supremacy) the system continues to oppress. We can only change a system collectively, and we can only do it by listening to each other and opening ourselves to seeing harm that we do, mostly without knowing it.

Hate is different. It never brings good. It separates and seeks to destroy. And we can all choose it. Or we can choose love.

Why is race important? Because if I can help my white son to understand his privilege, he might help his young friends to understand. If I can encourage him to use his privilege to make a system better, I have hope that he might be involved in some positive and real change one day. If I can assure my daughters that they are strong, that they matter and belong, and give them a chance to be honored both in our family and outside because of all the amazing things that they are, including their race and ethnicity, then they can give their friends the chance to experience what it’s like much earlier than I had the opportunity. They can change the world.

So race matters, it has always mattered, and respect and honor related to it is the way to become a united nation, one that promotes dignity and worth of its most vulnerable as well as promotes the democracy we founded the country on.

If you’re White, think about how to use your privilege to make things better. Consider with me how we can move past ourselves to experience the peace that can be when love conquers hate. Those with the power to change the system bear that responsibility. Just a few thoughts for the day. Wishing us all peace and a sense of belonging.