Just Keep Dreaming. Just Keep Swimming.
One of our household’s favorite quotes is from Dory the amnesiac blue tang fish in Finding Nemo. When Dory is lost and disoriented and confused, she repeats this mantra, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” So when one of our family members gets a little overwhelmed and is unsure where to go or what to do next, we like to turn to that wisdom. Just keep swimming. Just keep going.
As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., many of us are feeling a little like Dory–disoriented and confused and unsure of how we got here.
On the cusp of this national holiday, we have a president-elect whose most recent Twitter insult (at least as of this writing) was aimed at civil rights icon, Representative John Lewis. The racial divide in our country seems to be widening instead of shrinking and civil rights are being eroded on a daily basis. It feels as if we have lost major ground in the effort to achieve Dr. King’s dreams.
So what are we to do? We keep dreaming and keep swimming. But what does that even look like for people like me (who are Jim Gaffigan-white)? People who really don’t even know what we’re talking about when we talk about racism. In my own quest to figure out how to be more of the solution and less of the problem, I’ve identified a few things that people like me can do to help further the dream of a day when all are truly equal.
To quote the Girl-You-Wished-You’d-Never-Starting-Talking-To-At-The-Party, “Read something. Learn a book.” Start HERE.
Quit talking about reverse racism. It’s not a thing.
Take down all the blue-eyed blond pics of Jesus in your home and places of worship and replace them with someone who actually resembles a Mediterranean Jew.
Listen to people of color. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.
Know that “white privilege” is not an insult. Nor is it something you created or anything you can get rid of. But you can control how you acknowledge and respond to it.
Quit taking offense when someone calls you a racist and take the opportunity to learn why they think you are.
Go places where most of the other people are not white. Not only will you get a better understanding of people who don’t look like you, but you’ll get just a smidgen of a glimpse of what it feels like to be in the minority.
Remember that you’re not okay until we’re all okay. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, the rights of everyone are diminished when the rights of one are threatened. And to straight out quote Nelson Mandela, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way the respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Again, I don’t really know what I’m talking about when I talk about racism. But I’m still going to keep dreaming and keep swimming.
Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.