Let's talk about race
Last weekend my family flew to New Jersey to celebrate my Uncle Elbert's 80th birthday. And guess what?! The party was held at my cousin Alicia's house! 🤩
Fun fact: Alicia Keys and I are related by marriage. But this was actually my first time ever meeting her. And while meeting her was certainly a highlight of the occasion, it was even more meaningful to witness and be a part of a gathering of five generations of my uncle's family members and lifelong friends coming together to celebrate him. And almost everyone there (of a group easily 200 strong) was black.
Why do I point this out? Well, the trip also coincided with my preparing to give a talk next week to a group of Santa Cruz entrepreneurs about race. And almost all of them will be white. I can't help but notice the racial make up of the spaces I move through, and for most of my childhood (outside of family gatherings on my dad's side) those spaces have been all or majority white. For me, it's something to grapple with.
As the daughter of a black father and a white mother (like Alicia herself), I am a mixed black woman with a degree of white privilege. (Here's an NYTimes op-ed that I highly relate to on this subject). And I've often asked myself since opening All Hands about a year ago how I should be spending that privilege in order to create a more beautiful, equitable and just Santa Cruz, given my newfound influence (however modest) as a business owner.
This question has taken on more and more urgency for me in recent months, so I've begun to educate myself as much as I can about the history of race in this country (I learned a bit more than what was taught in school thanks to dinner table discussions with my dad, but there's still so so much that I didn't learn) and about the history and present reality of race in Central California.
What's fascinating and clarifying and frustrating all at the same time about this journey is that when I say I'm learning about race in America, I'm not just learning about the history and circumstances of black, indigenous and people of color. I'm learning about whiteness. I'm learning about how race, particularly whiteness, was deliberately constructed centuries ago as a tool of patriarchal capitalism. I'm learning how it continues to overtly and subtly influence everything in American society to this day - where we live, the quality of our schools, healthcare, job opportunities, access to healthy food, and yes, even the arts and crafts industry.
Starting brave conversations about race in our respective industries/niches/spheres of influence is actually the only "answer" I have to the growing mountain of questions I am sitting with at this point. This is not merely an intellectual exercise for me; it is deeply personal. It's actually in a weird but very real way related to the way my brother Evan died. When race is not named and understood as an active force at play in our communities, we walk around with large blindspots that can and do lead to tragic levels of damage to the harmer and the harmed, however unintentional.
The good news is that the knowledge for how to reduce our racial blindspots exists. We just have to be willing to humbly seek it out and courageously and creatively apply it. I'm trying to reduce my blindspots, and would love to do so in community with you.
Just the beginning,
PS. Notice how my toes are lifted up in geeky excitement. 🤦🏽♀️
PPS. The four women in this photo have all done The Artist's Way. That's right. Alicia's a fan! And I'm proud to say the fall group is shaping up to be our most racially diverse cohort to date.
PPPS. Here's what I've been devouring lately:
How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
The Good Ancestor Podcast by Layla F. Saad
Scene on Radio Podcast's "Seeing White" series
the wisdom of @rachel.cargle on Instagram
Finally, this is my favorite Alicia Keys song.