Unleashing My True Colors: A Work in Progress
This post is part of a series in which we asked writers for their thoughts on allyship and combating racism.
Although I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Los Angeles, I’ve been around people of other races, cultures, and backgrounds most of my life. My parents taught us tolerance from a very young age.
Born in South Africa, my father left his homeland in 1955 for Hollywood. A communications major at UCLA, he took advantage of opportunities to denounce apartheid, such as on student radio. He married my mother in 1963 and became an American citizen.
In 1974, my parents helped start the Canfield-Crescent Heights Community School, LA’s first magnet school that integrated two elementary schools — though just a mile apart, one was almost entirely white and the other was mostly Black. From the third grade on, I’ve rarely been in settings with only white people.
My early experiences with people from diverse backgrounds, as well as growing up in a melting pot and attending UC Berkeley, helped shape me into an open and accepting individual. Up until recently, I thought that was good enough.
Anti-Racism in Action
The Black Lives Matter protests following the police killing of George Floyd and the important conversations about racism that have ensued have led me to conclude that it’s not sufficient to simply be embracing of others. While I’ve sat back and portrayed myself as a person of peace and love, Black people and other minorities have struggled on an uneven playing field and been victimized by hate. To be an effective ally, I realize that I must be actively and enduringly focused on anti-racism. So far, I’ve taken the following steps toward this end:
- Read what a strong white ally looks like.
- Acknowledged white privilege and that I’ve benefited from it.
- Started reading about systemic racism.
- Listened to my Black friends and people of color.
- Corrected those who have retorted with “All lives matter.”
- Initiated discussions about racism with family.
- Discussed ways for my running club to be more inclusive with club leadership.
- Drafted a statement from a client condemning racism.
- Successfully pitched an article to an arts magazine about my neighbor Betye Saar, a Black artist whose works include The Liberation of Aunt Jemima.
So, what are my true colors? My palette seems more vibrant than a few months ago. However, I now believe that becoming completely free of prejudice will be a life-long endeavor.