One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Sarah McLachlan. I discovered her music in college and instantly felt like she was singing about me and my quest towards wholeness.

I don’t listen to Sarah as much as I did when I was younger, primarily because the longing for my personal healing has largely subsided. When I listen to her music now, I am instantly transported back to my college self.

Now, I feel almost maternal towards the young woman who I was and the experiences and pain she needed to have to journey towards her true self.

Sarah has been on my mind quite a bit lately. One of her songs contains these lyrics: “The world is on fire, and it’s more than I can handle.”

Since the election of 2016, and the growing rhetoric of racism that was evident at Trump’s Greenville rally, have accelerated our country’s descent into chaos, and it is only going to get worse from here on out. Much worse.

I have had mixed feelings of anger, sadness, embarrassment, and disbelief. Anger that there were enough voters who thought that Donald Trump was a more viable option than Hillary Clinton.

I now understand that the willingness to vote for “the lesser of two evils” was grounded in latent racism, sexism, and the desire to uphold an economic structure that maintains white privilege and power.

Of course, I have experienced an overwhelming sadness that is coupled with disbelief. Sometimes I feel like we are trapped in an alternative reality where everyone has lost their minds.

If I’m feeling especially brave, I venture into the comments section of local news stories about race or how we can enter to win a meet-and-greet with Megan Rapinoe before the soccer game on Saturday.

When I read these comments, I become incredibly overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem. White supremacy has allowed racism to saturate every crevice within our society.

None of us are immune to its reach. Four hundred years of policies and practices designed to keep elite White men in power are being challenged, which is why we are seeing such vitriol and fear tactics from Donald Trump and his allies.

Throughout our history, the ideologies that were needed to create and maintain these power structures have morphed to meet the demands of current societal norms. Because of this, white supremacy has become virtually undetectable, unless you search for it.

Once you see it, you see it everywhere. It permeates every aspect of our society and invades each and every one of our psyches.

Combatting white supremacy requires near-constant vigilance because it is so easy to get sucked back into an unknowing that is fueled by the media and those in power. We subliminally absorb messages from TV, movies, and advertising that whisper, “White is the norm.”

Societal norms, which ensure that we listen to these messages, are being challenged, and those who benefit from the power and privilege are desperately pushing back against the inevitable change that has already begun.

As I have watched these unfold, I have been dumbfounded by the ignorance and complacency by White people in society. I am not sure why I have been so confused by their current state because what do they have to gain by awakening to the deep disparities and inequities within our society?

Rather, they have something to lose. To join the cause of truth and justice, White people must be willing to let go of some of the privileges that they enjoy simply because of the color of their skin.

Joining hands in the fight means that we must share what we have to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth, power, and access to high-quality schools.

I remain convinced that the first step towards more active engagement by the White community is education. We have all been sold a bill of goods within this country.

No one has received an accurate account of our history. It has been whitewashed intentionally to ensure that the structures we have created remain firmly in place.

We have a duty to educate ourselves about the true history of our country, including the ongoing legacy of slavery and Jim Crow that prevents equitable outcomes between Black and White children and families.

We have a duty to develop an intimate understanding of racism, not just the individual kind, but more importantly, structural racism.

Our ignorance about how structures have been put in place throughout our history to benefit a few ensures that the status quo carries on. When we begin to see all of this, it is hard to unsee how racism has morphed over time – to the point where many of us think that we live in a post-racial society.

When we commit to learning the truth, we are then put in a position of making choices about our actions. Are we willing to feign ignorance so that we don’t have to relinquish our status and standard of living, or are we willing to do what it takes so that all people within our society are able to achieve the ever-elusive “American Dream?”

One thing I know for sure is that what we witnessed in Greenville, NC is just the beginning. Trump has emboldened his supporters to be more vocal and take more action to ensure that America remains great only for White people, particularly White men.

We are going to see more acts of violence against people of color and their allies. We are going to see more overt racism throughout our daily lives. We have a choice at this moment to give in to the fear and intimidation, or we can remain ever vocal in shining the light on the truth and fighting for justice.

For me, there is no other option. We must choose the path toward justice.

Click here for more content by Jen Neitzel, Ph.D.!

Jen Neitzel, Ph.D.
Jen started her career in early childhood education over 20 years ago in the classroom teaching young children with significant behavioral challenges.

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