This week at work I was asked for my input on the topic of Diversity & Inclusion. Yesterday, I saw the announcement of the June 12 Black Lives Matter Seattle and King County General Strike. Today I woke up with the urge to take action by making my own personal statement of support.
Like many SWL’s (suburban white liberals), I live in a bubble of happy contentment. I say I’m supportive of racial justice, and l feel solidarity with #BLM, I even tell my family I identify not as white, but as brown. But more public expression, and even more active support, feel like immediate needs.
In order to give honor to this moment in American history, I would like to tell you my family story, which informs my views on racial injustice. I’m not trying to co-opt this moment by making it “about me,” but more so, express my solidarity with those demanding their own freedom from fear and oppression.
My story is like many others. In 1938, just after Kristallnacht, my mother’s family left Germany for the US. My mother was an infant, the daughter of two successful German Jewish doctors. Each family member was allowed to leave with just $10 each. They spent the war and post-war years journeying from city to city trying to a) survive and b) fit into this new country. My mom had to live in a foster home when times got tough. Her father, despondent, committed suicide at age 50, feeling there was no future for his family. Luckily, my blessed grandmother Greta soldiered on and did create a future for herself, living until the age of 91. My mother met her next-door neighbor, the son of a Jewish doctor, and married him in 1960.
My dad’s family did not have to fear for their lives but were also victims of racial prejudice. My grandfather wanted to go to medical school in NY and was accepted. But the “Jewish quota” was already filled, so he was not allowed to matriculate. He found a school that would take him in Glasgow, Scotland, where he got his medical degree and happily met my grandmother. They came back to the US and my grandfather went on to become a successful doctor and hospital director in NY.
This history has taught me to give support to everyone seeking their own freedom from oppression. To stand with the oppressed rather than the oppressors. To question authority and demand equal and fair treatment in any public forum.
Those are my ideals, but the challenge of this moment is turning ideals into action.
This is a starting point for me, sharing my feelings, adding my voice to the voices of the oppressed, to learn how I can more actively help avoid and correct injustice, to seek to identify and eliminate racial injustice and help others find the freedom to enjoy the opportunities they choose to pursue — or just live free from fear.
This is all-important opportunity for transformation. Let me pose this question: Can anyone at this moment enjoy their own freedom and opportunity while so many people in our country feel their own freedoms are institutionally blocked? I believe the answer is simple.