I’d like to introduce a new segment of my blog called Let Me Speak. First and foremost the purpose of this segment is to give you a chance to express your voice, which on any given day might be suppressed because children and work and life can be so consuming that you forget you once had one.

I will give you a topical issue to consider and invite your comments in a safe, friendly environment. Here’s my thinking: I’m home all day, every day and I like to read the news. I challenge myself to think about the different angles and more often than not, I have opinions about what I am reading that I would like to express to someone (not my 4 year old). But here’s the catch, I don’t want to create a forum where conversations spiral into negativity, there are plenty of other avenues for that. On my blog, I want everyone to feel safe to express their opinion, to see what others are saying and to leave the conversation open-ended for further thought. Be respectful of others! If you just want to read along and keep your thoughts to yourself, that works too, the point is to get you thinking!

Here’s my first topic: Systemic Racism.

It’s been on my mind and it’s been in the news. I can’t help but feel guilty that I am a participant, whether I want to be or not. I have benefitted and continue to benefit from a society that oppresses a huge subset of people for no logical reason. The system is rigged to benefit white people like me. The worst part is that it is so ingrained in our culture that many people dispute its existence. Like many other allies, I scratch my head and think ‘what can I do about it? What can any of us do about it?’

I came across two articles today that address this very thing.

The first is Hillary Clinton’s recorded discussion with Black Lives Matter activists in New Hampshire last week. An activist asked presidential candidate Clinton what she could do about systemic racism and her response was, “I don’t believe you change hearts, I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/us/politics/hillary-clinton-takes-on-civil-rights-generation-gap.html?_r=0

Do you believe this is effective? Can public policies eliminate racism? I don’t see that happening. I think we’ve come to point where we want to hold somebody accountable for our collective sin and we look to our politicians/legislators to solve this for us. It’s more comfortable to point fingers than to look at how each of us are contributing to the oppression of others.

The second article I read, which also happens to be the New York Times, is an interview with Cornell West.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/19/cornel-west-the-fire-of-a-new-generation/?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region

He talks about his involvement in the Ferguson protests and the motivation he sees in the new generation of black protesters. His feeling is that it is up to individuals to make a systemic change. “Don’t just talk about forces for good, be a force. So it’s an ontological state. So, in the end, all we have is who we are. If you end up being cowardly, then you end up losing the best of your world, or your society, or your community, or yourself. If you’re courageous, you protect, try and preserve the best of it. Now, you might preserve the best, and still not be good enough to triumph over evil. Hey, that’s the way it is. You did the best you could do. T.S. Eliot says, ‘For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.’ T.S. Eliot was a right-wing brother who was full of wisdom. All you can do is to try; keep on pushing. That’s all you can do.” When asked, “When it comes to race in America in 2015, what is to be done?” His response is, “Well, the first thing, of course, is you’ve got to shatter denial, avoidance and evasion.” He goes on to criticize the President and on and on about a politicians role in addressing racism, but he even acknowledges that there have only been 2 presidents ever who pushed for progressive reforms.

So is it our elected officials’ responsibility to take the helm to address racism or is it up to individuals? Obviously, it is a deep-rooted problem and needs to be addressed on many, many levels, but my personal opinion is that each of us is accountable for its persistence. We hold politicians to high standards in guiding us through difficult issues such as this, but really they are just a reflection of ourselves. What are your thoughts?

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