We Have Work To Do
I have something to say. If it's ever me, if my name is ever read like George Floyd's and so many before him, please do not honor me with trendy, empty promises. Go be the change - the real change that is needed in this world. Here are some things I would like you to teach your children, or teach yourselves, starting with: accept those who are not black like me. We may inhabit disparate worlds but we are black, all the same.
I am black. I will always be black. I've heard a lot of people say, "you're not 'really' black" - or - "you're not 'black' like them," and those people are wrong. The message is coming from people of all walks of life. And, the message is hurtful because I'm not seen as what I am. I don't need you to remind me what I am. With that said, let me say this...
You ask what to teach your children -- and I offer this, with an important caveat. Not all black people feel the same way. My opinions are my own, and these words represent my own wishes -- I want you to teach your children to think of me as a human being.
I am a friend, Period, and NOT your "black friend," -- and, I do NOT want to be your token "not really black friend," because until we take away that label, we have a constant reminder of racism. To my Romanian friends or my Emerati friends or my Irish friends, I am Jeni, their friend. To your children, I want to be your friend. Yes, there is an understanding that I am black, but just as your children don't have to think about their other friends being white or any other color, I don't want to have to be thought of as different so that my name evokes a dinner table conversation, trepidation about having a conversation, or a special agenda.
I also want you to teach your children something that lasts beyond the trend of the day, beyond the movement.
We have to create a system of shared, good values that become institutionalised into their lives for good, for generations to come. We keep talking about institutions and we need a new one. Please believe me, I believe racism exists, and I do not think that "not" talking about it makes it go away. Talking about it sure as shit hasn't made it go anywhere.
To combat negative, we need more positive. To erase negative, we need only positive.
Some people "like me" have fortunately or unfortunately skirted a lot of uncomfortable blatant racism. We easily move within races; socio-economic, religious, and political groups; and have been "accepted," so we are not thought of as black. But we are. It's like people are justifying our acceptance into these groups by saying we've gone beyond black to something better.
We're widely accepted but the "we, like me" also look around at other blacks and accept them, too. I am very lucky. I want you to teach your children to accept those who are not black like me.
You are champions for us today so be champions for all of us always, just as you have pledged today. Do something good for people everyday. Donate, give, listen, act, react for the black homeless. They are black, too. And they are people, too. When COVID happened, they were left alone and some friends and I got together to go feed them because we all weren't there for them. Always be there for them beyond your day of service. We may inhabit disparate worlds but we are the same black.
When the movement is over, and the feelings are subdued, and we're on to our lives, and vacations, what's going to be hard are the promises sitting here unfulfilled because the heat of the moment has cooled. All these promises to do better.
I keep hearing a lot of, "if you have a black friend, do [this] for them today." "Give them a hug." Don't just feel you need to give a black person a hug right now. This message is for everyone and if you are still reading, everyone's going to need this hug. We have work to do. Go out there and do the damn thing!