I’ve been on a journey to learn about my white privilege for several years. It has been hard work but it has been rewarding. I might even go so far as to say it has been liberating. Why? Because I have found that a necessary condition for deep learning and change regarding our country’s sordid history is letting go of all excuses and false narratives that might relieve me of responsibility.
I attended a talk by Adam Foss on Monday evening. Adam was the guest of Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty. He was a prosecutor in Massachusetts who founded an organization called Prosecutor Impact, which trains prosecutors and others in the criminal justice system on implicit bias and how they can exercise the discretion they have to change the trajectory of the people over whom they have so much power. It was a powerful and compelling talk. It was a timely event given recent publicized instances of possible racial targeting and I applaud Dougherty for hosting the event.
I’ve been participating in workshops and trainings by some excellent organizations over the last several years. In my previous position I required my entire staff to participate in monthly racial equity discussion lunches. I believe it is necessary for everyone to listen and be receptive to learning about how racism continues to be manifested. Here is just a bit about the journey I have been on.
I am the daughter of an immigrant Jewish mother whose family left Germany in 1933 just as Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party was coming to power. I am the daughter of a first-generation father whose Jewish parents emigrated to the United States early in the 20th Century to escape poverty and discrimination in Eastern Europe. Growing up in Indiana in the 50’s and 60’s, I felt the stigma of being an “other.” We weren’t Christian. With these roots, I hardly felt privileged.
Yet, I now know that I was and am privileged. I must acknowledge the opportunity I have taken for granted for most of my life. Here is just one example: I applauded the G.I. bill for years as the great tool of economic mobility because that was the only way my father was able to go to college, get a well-paying job with benefits and enjoy a life style his parents never had. I only learned in the last five years that the G.I. bill wasn’t available to most returning Black soldiers.
The continuing legacy of red-lining, predatory and discriminatory lending practices, unequal educational opportunities, the structure of social welfare programs, and much more have created and perpetuated an unfathomable racial wealth divide.
It will be important to me as a Boulder County Commissioner to use the power of that position to advance racial equity and to foster conversations about racism and inclusiveness.
We must all dedicate our efforts towards dismantling systemically racist systems and repairing the damage they have done.