Over this past year, I’ve heard it said in many different ways that saying Black Lives Matter, speaking out against racism and racist culture, and discussing inequality is divisive. Some go as far as to say that talking about racism is in itself racist. I have to admit my first thought when I hear these comments is to feel appalled, angry and totally disillusioned, but it’s important to understand where and whom these comments are coming from.

There are usually two kinds of people who make comments of this nature. The first is someone who has deep-seated racist beliefs but who don’t want to be viewed or labeled racist. They like feeling superior and like things just the way they are. They don’t want positive change or for people of color to feel empowered or believe in their worth.

The second type is someone who is just not aware or educated about racial injustice. They choose to believe we live in a world with a level playing field, and that racism died with the end of slavery. And, that anyone who speaks out about the existence of racism is playing the race card or playing the victim. These folks think that because they may have Black acquaintances or have never used racial slurs to describe Black people that they couldn’t possibly hold any prejudices. They only see the world through their own experiences and perspectives.

But, I’m here to say that truth is not divisive. There’s also much talk about cancel culture, and that can be a real problem, but you want to know a huge example of cancel culture? Saying that the daily life experiences of Americans, who are also people of color, are false, that we are making it up, that it’s all in our heads.

That is gaslighting at its finest. Who are any of us to tell anyone else that they are being hateful and causing division by speaking out against being targeted, belittled, harassed, stereotyped and treated unfairly solely because of skin color?

What is so threatening about your fellow Americans of color fighting for their God-given rights to exist without persecution for the same opportunities as everyone else?

If you truly believe all lives matter, as so many say in rebuttal to the Black Lives Matter movement, than you would use empathy, you would listen to your fellow countrymen and women, and you would want the best for everyone no matter the race.

I implore you to stop saying that speaking out about racial injustice is causing division, and realize that what’s divisive and hateful is to ignore or deny that there are real problems, ones that can only be solved if we come together and choose to see with the eyes of someone who is different than you; not just seeing the world from personal perspective or because it’s what you were taught growing up.

Open up your heart, dig deeper, be willing to feel uncomfortable, do your research, educate yourself, really listen and have candid, respectful conversations with people of color. Discussing and taking action against racism and discrimination shouldn’t be polarizing. It’s goal is not to place guilt or shame or villainize white people — after all, at the core of this is a heart issue not a race issue.

So instead of getting defensive, what if we were to listen and believe each other when we say we are hurting?

Portia Foss lives in Johnson.

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