Arizona K12 Center Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke reflects on racism in the U.S. and raising her voice in action as an anti-racist.Jun 02, 2020
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have grappled with the events of the past months. For over a week, I have tried to put down my thoughts and after each attempt, I deleted what I wrote. Who am I — a middle class white woman from Scottsdale — to speak about race in America? At the same time, I know that if I don’t speak up now, no matter how clumsily, when will I? There are things I know about life in America; there are many more things I do not know about life in America.
I do not know what it is like to walk through a department store and to be immediately followed by store security because of the way you look.
I do not know what it is like to have race used as the reason why someone would call the police because I asked you to put your dog on a leash.
I do not know what it is like to be looked on with suspicion as I walk through a house under construction or jog through a neighborhood.
I do not know what it is like to be pulled over for no other reason other than the color of your skin or that you looked like someone who was suspected of a crime.
I do not know what it is like to have “the talk” with my children about what to do when they are pulled over by the police.
I do not know what it is like to be presumed guilty simply by the color of my skin.
What I do know is that these are the realities of African American, Latino, and other persons of color throughout this country.
For me to come to grips with all of this, I must recognize what I do know. I do know there is good and evil in us all. There are people that are filled with hate. I don't know how it got there, but it is festering inside them and coming out in a myriad of sordid ways. I know we aren't born to hate, but I do know we can be raised to hate. I know as teachers, we need to find ways to address the issues of race and equity head on in our schools and communities.
Over the weekend, I heard a former South Carolina state legislator say, “You are either a racist or you are an anti-racist. There is no middle ground.” I then started to think about my own white privilege.
I am no longer comfortable being on middle ground. I am speaking with vindication that I am an anti-racist. I am not color blind. I see color because that means seeing people of color and their lived experiences. I can listen and learn from a perspective that is not middle class or white. I can do better and be better.