I feel as if I’m an independent person: a white female, retired, and my time is my own. But how many people are restricted from doing or being who they are, especially people of color. I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about how African Americans have been treated and restrained in so many ways throughout the life of our country, even up until this present day, and it has been eye-opening to me. There are so many things I didn’t know, didn’t learn in history class, don’t know now. Independence is for the privileged.

We celebrate our independence from England in July, but that certainly didn’t include all the people who were living in that time. Slavery was an abomination, a cruelty that is unimaginable to me, and even after it ended, the horrors continued for those who were supposedly freed after the Civil War. The Civil Rights Act only freed people of color by law, not in spirit. Many people of privilege didn’t, and still don’t, buy into it.

It sounds empty even to me when I say I don’t understand the resistance. How can the hate and the fear be so strong? I’d really like the answer to that question, but I don’t even know who to ask. I’m reading the book, White Rage, by Carol Anderson, and I have to say I’m outraged by this country’s history of, and present, cruelty to African Americans. It makes me think we are not a civilized society at all.

The following poem is just the beginning of my exploration and the extreme emotion that washes over me as I pursue a study that will last for the rest of my life. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Trying to Make Sense

I am white.
I don’t know what it is like to be black,
but I have been reading and listening,
and my head is close to bursting.

I want to be able to understand,
but I don’t think I ever will.
How can a human being
reign terror on another human being

and continue on
as if nothing is amiss.
Things keep happening:
accusations, shootings, death,

and little is done about it.
We close our eyes,
and follow our own paths
without looking to either side,

or behind us or what is ahead.
We’re blind, deaf and dumb
to the atrocities
in our own country

while punishing with sanctions and invasions
the human rights violations in others.
What in hell is wrong with us?
What are we afraid of?

We belong to each other,
we are each other.
Our hearts beat the same way,
each breath keeps us all alive.

We cannot sever our connections
no matter what we do, so
“. . . never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for [all of us].”*

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn

*John Donne, “No Man is an Island”

Write about where you are in your understanding of this country’s treatment of people of color. Really explore your thinking and your heart, and write honestly. (Remember, you don’t have to share your writing with anyone.)

Explore your understanding of privilege and whether or not you feel privileged.

I believe we, regardless of color, are connected by the human bond. How do you feel about that? What does it mean to you?

A friend of mine found this test in her research, and I wanted to include it here. I will admit, I didn’t do well. I have a lot of work to do. Take the test if you wish and then write about the results: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html (highlight link, then right click and click on “go to [link]” or copy and paste in your browser)

2 replies
  1. Kathi
    Kathi says:

    So much to think about, so much to learn about, Dottie! So many can identify with you – doing the hard work of understanding so that we can move to doing better.

    Reply
    • Dottie
      Dottie says:

      It is a little overwhelming after all these years of not thinking about the issue and now wanting to know more and more, but I will persevere and learn what I need to know. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply

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