Reach out and Change

Summer has arrived in Minnesota. We are having days of 90 degrees and days of 59 degrees. A more typical June for us. We often have cool days during this warm up to the Summer Solstice. The cool nights and warm days are the ones that we sink into the joy of summer. A cool early morning mist, hot tea and a walk around the garden is a great day to settle the nerves and look for hope.

It has been a rough spring for everyone. Much harder for some than others. Changes have come quickly and yet here at home my day to day events seem very much the same. I work on and off in the garden. I take care of my grandson. I walk the neighborhood and the little local lake.

It is when I head out of my hood that it hits me over and over again. There are the people with masks. There are the boarded up buildings or the burned out lots. There are the homes with campers attached – places for first responders to sleep and be and not expose their loved ones. There is the on going phrase everything has changed and nothing has changed.

Again there are many where everything has changed both emotionally and physically. People without work, people who work from home, people go to work but are fearful each day that they too will get sick. There are those without homes due to riots and burning. There are those who still hold anger at how much it takes to make people understand.

I realize my white privilege over and over again. I have a safe home. I have the funds to live, eat and garden. I can spend my days in comfort and joy. I also know that I have tried through my 40 years of teaching to help my students understand social justice. I also know there was so much I did not know or did not understand.

The history that was not written or I did not know to go looking for. I accepted what was presented to me as I was growing up. I knew that things were bad. I lived through the civil rights era and read, supported and worked to support change. Then I moved on with growing up, teaching and helping my young students understand that things “had changed”. We discussed the joy of having a classroom full of students who had different colored skin. We discussed the idea that everyone had opportunities to go on to college, to get any job they would like.

I tried but still did not look deep enough to see that the changes were only on the surface and only in some places, some school, some neighborhoods. There continued to be so much I did not see and I did not go seeking.

Now as the riots are slowing and the protesters continue to march my new feed, my Instagram account, my FaceBook Account are full of articles, books and information. This news opens my eyes and heart once again to how much I missed and did not fully understand.

My listening and reading authors of color has opened the door again to thinking about how we live, how we treat people and what are the little steps we take each day that keeps others from living a safe and joyful life.

I know there are the “Large” racist people – the people that will fight so a person of color can not move forward. The people who target others due to skin color only.  Now I know to watch for the “Small” racist people who are not aware of their own racism. I know to watch my own speech and thoughts. I know that patterns I grew up with creep out at time and I may say something that is hurtful to others when that was not my intent.

I know that I have work to do. This work will be hard and will take time. I also know that if I want the world to change I need to be apart of that change if only in small ways. The change of racism must come from those with white skin. It is where it began and where it needs to change. We have our work cut out for us.

Read, Reflect, Write and talk to your friends. Then go out and ask questions and listen to those you do not know. Make new friends who look different from you, who come from other backgrounds and who live in different places from you.

We need to reach out and change.

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to Reach out and Change

  1. We have a lot of talking to do in an effort to get ALL people to realize the beauty of equality. Right now, I’m working diligently to talk to my daughter. It isn’t just a one-off conversation. It’s become a topic of conversation around here since it’s important that she learns how to be anti-racist NOW.

  2. Ramona says:

    Trying to listen more. Your post is filled with ways we need to change. Thanks for your words.

  3. bevbaird says:

    You write so well about our (white) need to change. So very true. I too have tried through my teaching and my friendships to treat all with equality. But I know we all must do much, much more.

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