Put Cho Back Into It

“Well, you ain’t gonna change him; so you better change your plan,” my mother instructed in a tone steeped in matter-of-factness, as she leaned back on her green, velvet couch with her legs stretched-out and propped up , wearing a thin, eggplant-colored short sleeved sweater, bedroom-slippers and half-slip (she would always take off her bra, shoes, and skirt immediately when she got home). I stood there – waiting for some sort of empathy or anger after sharing with her my story about how I felt I was being discriminated against; but it was like snow in Florida – it wasn’t coming.  

Perhaps because she grew up in the segregated South, or that the soundtrack of her life was James Brown and Otis Redding, or because of her no-nonsense personality; but while my mother cared deeply about and talked about race issues, she wasted no energy on the emotions surrounding these issues; and only focused on the actions needed to navigate through them.

Wasting energy over something as common and consistent as racism seemed silly to her. She didn’t tolerate chicken-sessions where people clucked, squawked, cockadoole-doodle dooed and nested in disgust.  No. She expected people to cross the road – to get to the other side of whatever the racist situation was.  In her opinion, certain things were certain: Racism is one of those things; so it was useless to rehash and fret over it any more than we do over the sun rising.  Instead, she felt that people need to focus efforts on how to best successfully navigate racist situations – on how to overcome them. 

While I seethed with disappointment that day because she refused to join my pity party; I now see so much rightness in her thinking.  I too have grown weary of the clucking, squawking and cockadoodle-doodling.  I’m sick of the thoughts and prayers; tired of hearing about “the outrage”; fatigued by the on-trend Facebook posts; and I’m past the yard signs and the all too familiar cries for change after a public tragedy.

We’ve “been there and done that” with all these comments and machinations.  The cycle of outrage is predictable.  We are in a constant state of outrage – a continuous circle that has swept us up in a cyclone of doing nothingness. 

What are you going to DO?

It time to DO. It’s time for each person to move past the easy commiserations and symbolic gestures and to make a commitment to do the hard work of working against a systemic racism and against our own biases and patterns.

The focus should not be on assuring yourself and others that you are good or even doing good (because oftentimes that is a simple task that helps us to avoid the necessary hard work); this fight is about working against bad. This fight is about walking uphill — about going against the natural way things pull us (because all of us are indoctrinated into the same racist system).

This change requires action, not feelings. Our heartfelt sympathies and sentiments are worthless. We need to start thinking strategically.  We need to start using our heads and not just our hearts.  And we need to get busy doing the tough work, the grit work of making dramatic change. 

Put cho back into it.

Everyday, each of us will need to do things that work against the way the world is currently working. We aren’t simply fighting for something; we are fighting against something.

It will require calling out discriminatory actions and decisions, refusing to let things slide, and holding people and organizations accountable. It will mean noticing and calling out non-diverse environments.

Ask your favorite online store why they don’t have models representative of the diversity in America. Then ask again. Tell them that you won’t shop in places that don’t embrace diversity. Call a congressman. Say “hi” to the neighbor you’ve never spoken to. Point out to your boss that everyone on your team is White. Set-up a meeting with HR to ask about next steps to make your environment more inclusive. Buy from a Black business. Invite someone new to the table. Sign the petition. Call the police station. Offer your free services. Read a book that shares a different perspective. Introduce a person to a helpful contact. Look around to see if places you frequent are diverse- then question the ways in which they’ve blocked diversity (consciously or not). Suggest someone for a position. Give someone access to someone or some tool you have. Inquire and insist that people are being paid the same as you are for the same work. Talk to your family members. Have conversations with your kids about race. Question teachers that don’t have a multicultural curriculum. Speak up when the another person should’ve been served first. Mentor. Guide. Write. Demand. Do. Please just do. Things ain’t gonna get better just cause you feel bad. Thoughts and prayers become insulting after awhile when they aren’t met with action. Do!! What can you do?

It will be us – the ones whom so desperately want the change – to actively ensure that this time is a movement and not a moment.

It won’t be easy.  

It requires discomfort, and not denial.

This is grunt work.  It’s in the trenches.  It’s dirty.  It’s heavy. But it’s necessary.

Put cho back into it.

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About Randi B.

Randi is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and writer, focusing on making connections and cultivating empathy in this diverse world one trip, speech, article, book and conversation at a time.

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