An Open Letter of Apology to My Sister
I have loved you since the moment you came home to us from Colombia. I have laughed and cried with you. I have watched you outrun and outplay everyone you competed against. I was witness at your wedding and celebrated the adoption of your two sons and their homecoming from Haiti. I have been lucky to be with you for many of the big and small moments in your life. But this is a letter of apology for all that I missed. I didn’t really understand what it has been like for you to go through the world. I am trying to understand that better. I want to acknowledge and take responsibility for my white privilege. I want to be better. Not just love you and hope that is enough.
I am saddened and frustrated with what’s happening. It is keeping me up at night as I am sure it is doing to you. And if I really dig in to this feeling, and get honest with myself, I am frustrated with me. Frustrated that I continue to be surprised by the toxic, racist, anti-Semitic happenings.
I am white. That’s why I continue to be surprised. It’s that simple. You know this. I am learning, forgive me.
I went back to the UU church of our childhood the Sunday after the election looking for comfort in that sanctuary of love and kindness where we were raised. The minister looked out at our faces and was confronted with the tough job of comforting us. She said that she didn’t think the election was evidence that things were worse than we thought they were, she said that she thought that the election was evidence of things being uncovered. Uncovered.
I sat with that for a long time. Uncovered. Things that I had thought were in our past- things like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, hate — had they just gone underground? They had been covered up, not solved? And, now do they have license to come out? This wasn’t a comforting thought.
Uncovered. You knew this, I am learning, forgive me.
Now 200+ days into the new administration, the minister was right. Things are being uncovered. And, it’s awful. And, I am scared and worried about you and your sons and for every person of color. I need to wake up. And then stay woke as you like to say. I need to stop being surprised.
I am starting by apologizing to you because as enlightened as I like to think I am, I was fooling myself. I can be more aware, I can be better.
I found this from Peggy McIntosh, written in 1988 the year I graduated college. Written not 100 years ago but 30 years ago and she could have written it today. We are the ones who are covering things up. We need to do the uncovering. We need to name and denounce racism, sexism, anti-semitism. We need to acknowledge and take responsibility for our white privilege. That is how we start. She wrote,White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. A list of 50 ways we can be more aware. Reading this helped me to see the world through your eyes. Reading one of these a day might help me to wake up and then stay woke. No 34 knocked me over. 34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self- interested or self-seeking.
You knew all of this, I am learning, forgive me. I will do better.