Here are words by 35-year Evanston resident Jean-Marie Legler Freise, written yesterday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jean-Marie's message is directed to white folks: Don't just say. Do.
Today is a day to reflect not on just what Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message was, but on what we are personally doing to advance the cause of equality for all. What are you doing to combat racism in our white supremacist society? Is posting a feel-good picture of Dr. King once a year your way of contributing? If that’s your contribution, you are complicit in white supremacy. Smiling and nodding and being nice is not going to cut it. Does this make you uncomfortable? Ask yourself why. Do you want to do better but don’t know how? Do you want to raise race-conscious children but don’t know how? Do you want to dismantle the institutionalized racism that you benefit from or are you too afraid that losing your spot on the ladder of superiority will hurt your prospects in life? These are thought provoking questions, but if you really want to advance a more just and equitable society that values all lives and that acknowledges that Black Lives Matter and white lives matter too much, then commit to starting the work. What’s the work? The work is educating yourself, the work is learning about your white privilege, acknowledging its existence no matter what your socioeconomic standing, the work involves reading things that may make you uncomfortable like “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo. Doing the work involves calling out your racist family members when they spew racist garbage at the dinner table, calling out a co-worker or an old high school friend and holding people accountable for their racist views. Doing the work involves continual effort and a willingness to be combative and a willingness to set your white fragility aside to acknowledge your own participation in racist systems. So while today is a day to honor Dr. King, honor him not by reposting a picture and a quote, honor him by keeping his legacy alive and committing to doing the work. Thanks for listening.
Jean-Marie is a mother, wife, and racial justice advocate. She's co-owner of Freise Builders, an 11-year member of the The Woman's Club of Evanston, and an avid political junkie who is dedicated to spreading awareness and supporting anti-racist policies and candidates.
How will you put Dr. King's words into action this year?
Check out the growing list of organizations committed to ending poverty, fighting racism, and building community here. Here are just a few free upcoming learning opportunities (there are many more--and lots of way to get involved in action, too:
January 26 at 9 a.m., Karla Thomas and Dewey Elementary School's Courageous Conversations group presents "How to Talk to Your Child About Racism." Sign up here.
OPAL and Unitarian Church of Evanston will screen "Fruitvale Station on February 5 at 7 p.m. Free. Fore more info here.
Dear Evanston's February 12 Racial Justice Book Group (starts at 6:30 p.m.) will be discussing "White Fragility." You can sign up here.
Find out more about how you can get involved in the North Cook/Lake County Poor People’s Campaign, the local arm of the national Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, a movement that was founded by Dr. King, Jr. 50 years ago.