I suppose, like everyone else, I view myself differently. I’m Lady Justice, blindfolded with a balanced scale in one hand and a sword at my Toga-wearing side. I’m all for equality, impartiality, and justice, just like everybody else, this means I’m not racist, right? That’s the issue.
Nobody thinks of themselves as racist, because racism looks a certain way. Racism (with a nasty capital R) is tinged with biting words and segregation. It has people donning white pillowcases, driving around in the middle of the night with wooden crosses and lighter fluid—at least that’s how history shows what racism looks like.
However, the more headlines I see, the higher the tally of unarmed people of color killed, the more I recognize that racism is alive and thriving. And the more I do nothing but read and keep a tally, the more I realize I’m that statue after all.
Think about it, Lady Justice is frozen, stuck on her pedestal. She doesn’t move, she doesn’t take action to stop inequality, she simply poses. She’s armed with a sword, but she doesn’t swing it to enact justice, it’s just a prop slightly hidden behind the draping of her dress.
As a marble statue, Lady Justice cannot hear. She’s not listening to experiences and can’t understand other perspectives. Her blindfold isn’t a way to stop bias, it’s a way to blind her from looking at all the forms racism takes.
And although she has a pair of lips carved in her face, she cannot speak out to make any changes. I don’t want to be like that!
Saying nothing and doing nothing doesn’t equal justice, it equals complacency and apathy, opening up plenty of space for racism. I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable that that’s what I’ve become. So, I’ve decided I need to be braver, and believe me, it’s scary as hell to lift up that mirror and see what’s reflecting back! But I’m doing it anyway.
Where I used to shut down when the subject of inequality was raised, I’m trying to understand what makes something that way. Instead of believing I know what racism is and what it looks like, I’m looking up terms like White Privilege, Systemic Racism, and Microaggression.
I’m learning how to recognize the difference between Structural Racism and Institutional Racism, and what I do or don’t do that makes life harder for someone that doesn’t look like me. I’m challenging what it really means to be colorblind, and why pretending there are no differences between the color of my skin and anybody else’s, makes everything worse, not better.
Although learning about what racism is today has been terrifying and uncomfortable, everything I’ve read has made it clear that nobody expects perfection. I haven’t found that the expectation is an apology for the past, and nobody seems to expect anything but a listening ear as a way to create a better future for all. I can do that, at least, can’t you?
I know I’m not doing things right not all the time, and I know there is a lot more room for improvement. However, one thing that is perfectly clear to me is that I don’t want to be made of stone. I don’t want to stand perfectly still and assume the position of justice, I want to be stronger and better than that.