I grew up in the 1970s south in a white family that certainly didn’t think of itself as racist (it was). It was an era of still-overt racism while a new, arguably more insidious form of covert racism also flourished. I thought little of race, to be perfectly honest, participating in the racism of my time by tacit agreement and even, God forgive me, overt racism in my speech and actions.
A strange thing happened; about five years ago, I learned the true identity of my biological father, who was Peruvian, indigenous and colonial in origin. So many things suddenly made sense—the family photos where I just didn’t fit in, my blue-black hair next to my brothers’ light brown locks. The most potent lesson for me, though, is that this is only my biological identity. I grew up white, in a white family, and therefore was treated as a white person. I will admit, I was tempted to start identifying as Latinx or Indigenous Peruvian. But that would be disingenuous, borrowing that part of culture I didn’t grow up in while never having to live with and through the individual discrimination and institutional racism. I am a white woman, with all the privilege that carries.
This revelation provided an ironic impetus this past year to look inward at my own inaction and ignorance related to race. I have been on a journey to talk less (a hard task for any lawyer) and learn more. One author who impacted me was LaTasha Morrison, who teaches the four L’s, Learn, Listen, Lament, Leverage:
- Learn: For me, this meant taking a look at my platforms. Did I follow Black people, or other people of color, in general? I made my platforms as diverse as possible. I also read a great deal; I suggest this list of anti-racism works curated by black voices.
- Listen: It turns out, I don’t actually have to give an opinion if I disagree with the new voices I hear. I will never fail to grow by listening. And the more I listen, the more I actually don’t seem to disagree.
- Lament: An expression of grief or sorrow and related repentance is important. I have done wrong and I have done too little. Confess to God, yes, but also confess to anyone I’ve hurt by my complicity, actions or inactions. That’s hard, but I’m working on it.
- Leverage: This is a personal decision. For me, I thought of this verse: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:21). Committing to causes that further the work of activism, such as churches and organizations that are actively pursuing anti-racism, is a great place to start if you can.
I recognize that I will do this imperfectly. That’s ok; I will do it anyway. It’s a journey. May God bless you on your own journey in anti-racism work.
Written by Kathleen L.
Every issue of “Becoming Antiracist” is written by a fellow St. Ignatius parishioner.
Kathleen L. is an attorney, writer and swimmer who recently moved to Baltimore City with her husband, Eric, of 29 years. Professionally, she provides general counsel services to international, national and local nonprofits. She and Eric joined St. Ignatius in 2019. They have two adult daughters who also live in Baltimore.