Cultural racism – a personal experience

Cultural racism – a personal experience

Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is a Partnership Broker. Relational Leadership Junkie. Connector. Author/Speaker/Trainer. She graciously gave permission to Network Weaver to publish her recent facebook post (below) in response to the murder of George Floyd and the issue of police brutality – offering her personal experience with cultural racism and advice for white friends on how to show up in solidarity responsibly.

I’ve been silent for a reason. I needed some time to process my anger and pain. Those who are close to me know that I’ve been dealing with a daughter who feels helpless. She sent me a text a few days ago that she couldn’t stop crying. I’ve been processing this with my 72 year old mother who has had a lifetime of this insanity. She told me about the time she witnessed a Black man being beaten by the police as a young woman. She’s seen years of this and remarked that in her lifetime that with all the technological advances, racism and oppression haven’t changed. She said the only thing that has changed is the fact that cameras exist to prove it.

I’ll share my personal experience: In February, I was driving back from visiting my daughter in college and I jumped in front of a state trooper. I wasn’t speeding, just trying to get home. I was pulled over and I couldn’t understand why. He said I didn’t have a front license plate. I informed him it was a rental car I was returning the next day. He then accused me of drinking because he smelled alcohol in my car. I reached down to pick up the hand sanitizer that had fallen on the floor. I was then interrogated about why I rented a car and why I wasn’t driving my car. When I replied I don’t drive my car long distances because it’s older, he then asked me how old it was it. Questions that were in my opinion, intrusive. After running my tags, he found nothing. 

I drove away shaking and angry. This was the same county Sandra Bland was killed in. All I wanted to do was go home safely, alive. I ultimately filed a report with the Inspector General’s office and spoke with some others in leadership about my experience. I was blessed to have the opportunity to use my voice. George, Breonna, Sandra, Eric, Philando, Trayvon, Aubrey, Tamir, Jordan and so many others did not have that opportunity. I could tell you stories about being stopped in Highland Park to go to meetings. Stopped in downtown Dallas. And it doesn’t matter that I have a PhD, say the right things, do the right things–because of the color of my skin, assumptions are made about me.

It’s been heartbreaking listening to friends as we share our fears for our loved ones. Terrified of them jogging, bird watching, leaving parties, listening to music in the car, going to the store, sitting in their homes. A friend said his 13 year old grandson asked if he could be taught how to deal with the police because he doesn’t want to die. It is painful to prepare your kids for the first time they’ll be called the ‘n’ word or stopped by authorities or mistreated because of their skin color and worry every time they are out, if that will be the last time you see them. Talk to your Black friends…we’ve either given that talk or had our parents do it with us.

For my white friends, many of you are stunned and saddened by what you’ve witnessed. For Black folks, it is a part of our experience and the crazy thing is that it has been normalized for us. The trauma isn’t new. You are reading now how it is generational. We deal with doctors who don’t take our illnesses seriously and say it is in our heads or don’t see us. We deal with being followed in stores. Jobs that we are paid less than our colleagues who have the same titles. Lack of representation in leadership roles. Being fired from jobs without cause. It’s exhausting and takes a toll on your health on so many levels.

To be on guard, afraid, anxious most of the time is overwhelming. It’s even more frustrating when folks diminish your experience because it isn’t their reality or feel because they have a few friends of color that they are now experts on your situation not realizing that at any moment, privilege allows them to go back to their lives at the end of the day.

So to my white friends who are privately inboxing me, I appreciate your concerns and desire to do something. Let me give you some tips:

1. I can’t sit down with you to process your pain. I’m grieving. I’m balancing my own stuff and it’s heavy. Instead of asking me to help you figure out what to do, can you just ask me how am I doing? (And for those who’ve done that, I’m grateful.) I can’t do your emotional labor.

2. Private confession is good but it can’t stop there. Sending notes to your Black friends is cool but you need to publicly say it. You need to start talking to your circles of influence and telling them how you feel and telling them the problem. Write Op-Eds, call your legislators locally, statewide and nationally and demand action.

3. Put your money where your mouth is. Start donating to causes like Faith in Texas and others that are working in social justice spaces led by people of color. Begin to demand that organizations you fund do the same.

4. Start questioning your organizations and workplaces. If there are only a few people of color (or none) who are employed, you need to demand change. You also need to examine your culture because just bringing folks in without a true change of beliefs, identity and operations, it is window dressing. Looks nice but underneath, it is still foul.This goes for senior leadership and board membership.

6. Question investment. Those groups you are supporting–where are they investing their dollars? If they are funding causes that hurt people of color, move your money. Banks that support mass incarceration and candidates who back policies that are detrimental to our communities need to be dismissed from your roster.

7. Educate yourself and read. Just because you know one or two black people that you eat lunch with does not mean you haven’t been impacted by white supremacy. You are so impacted in ways you don’t even realize. First, read White Fragility. Pick up Peggy McIntosh’s work. Learn. Watching Roots isn’t enough.

8. It isn’t Black folks responsibility to coach you through this stuff. Allies should be available and willing to listen but you must also do the work.

I’m tired. I’ve been doing this work since college. I won’t stop and you can’t either.