Free Listening Through October 27, 2020:
Here Justine Toms and her dear friend, African American and circle sister, Ronita Johnson engage in a most candid and revealing conversation on racism. Johnson has been most gracious with her time and talent to lead several groups in the summer and fall of 2020 to facilitate circles of frank and open conversations about racism. Justine has been part of several of these groups as a participant on the subject systemic racism and culture. This is a forthright and deep sharing between Justine, a white woman born into upper-middle class, and Ronita, an African American who has lived in the deep south and is the daughter of a preacher and civil rights activist. Here the two of us converse about what we’ve learned, what continues to scare us, and our hope for the future. Ronita says, “We have to realize that there’s different treatment for different people depending on what they look like, depending on race. We have to talk about this because it’s not going to go away like magic. There’s no magic act here. There’s no pulling the rabbit out of the hat. We have to grapple with this and it’s not easy. It’s painful. You mentioned creating a safe environment but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be comfortable.” When asked how white people can become better allies to people of color, Ronita gives a sweeping list of things that people can do. First and foremost she says, “The first thing is become an antiracist, which means that you’re not speaking from a place of neutrality when you say a nonracist, you have to say antiracist because that’s an active word. It means you’re not endorsing any kind of racial hierarchy or any kind of racial inequality. . . You need to understand your indoctrination, your socialization process. It is amazing to me how many white people don’t know any black people, don’t know any brown people, have never been around a black or brown people.” She ends our conversation by calling on the admonition of the late Representative and activist, John R. Lewis, who spoke about “good trouble . . . and said ‘if you see a wrong, be willing to speak up. Don’t be silent. Don’t be complacent.’ I think if we all took that on as a personal vow, all of us believing that we want to create a just society, I believe we could do it. But there hasn’t been the momentum. There hasn’t been the tenacity to keep going.” Hopefully this conversation will encourage many others to participate and seek out these kinds of deep dialogues.