Unhinging my Whiteness and Relearning History

Yes. Read that again. Unhinging my whiteness and relearning history. A week ago I was crying to my friends, unable to believe that it happened again. Police killed another black person for no reason. No, you can’t argue that. It’s a fact. George Floyd was suspected of using a fake $20 bill and police officers held him down and strangled him for almost 9 minutes as he repeatedly told them he couldn’t breathe, he was in pain, he cried for help. These aren’t disputable opinions, these are facts caught on camera from multiple witnesses.

I realize now that what I thought was empathy and compassion in my overwhelming emotion was just white emotion. How could I understand, when I’ve never taken enough time to learn and listen. To my friends that tolerated my emotion, thank you – you didn’t have to, and I now realize my error. I’m sorry to tell you, there will be more but I promise to change.

I vowed to educate myself. Read, seek out resources, invest in businesses owned by people of color, listen to our black people leading rallies, telling their stories. I vowed to watch the countless documentaries telling the history that I was never taught, and I never thought to question throughout school. And I’ve started doing all of that, along with having meaningful conversations with people, sharing resources I found helpful for my other white friends, and joining marches and protests to listen. It’s amazing what you see when you actively start looking.

I have many beautiful friends of color – various colors thankfully! – who have spent their energy guiding my energy. Thank you, you haven’t needed to. What I realize now is that I have the power to be more proactive. I can see things in different lights. I lived in a community in Maryland that I was so proud to be part of for its diversity, until I realized I contributed to gentrification by just being lazy about seeing things differently. I thought my running group was such a beautiful community, but until it was pointed out to me, I never realized that we never actively sought to partner with black running communities. I never actively marketed to minorities. I thought my white ass showing up to group runs where “everyone was invited” was enough. Do you know what it was? Passive AF. If you build it, they will come…

I realize I can vote with my dollars and actively seek out businesses owned by people of color. This has become starkly apparent when I was so proud of a statement the company I work for was coming out with, until I looked at the comments and realized how safe and watered down our statement was. Honestly, I’ve taken a hard look at diversity in craft beer recently (which, let’s be honest, doesn’t need to be stated because it’s sooooo obviously white men) and did you know the craft beer community didn’t have published statistics on diversity until mid-2019? Yep, for an industry that RAVES about the community aspect, the family aspect, we’re pretty embarrassing.

Now, here’s the optimism in me: the company I work for has 40 years of proof of doing the right thing and acting in ways that support our communities. I have no doubt that we will contribute in big ways over a long and lasting period of time. I am a little confused why we decided to use words instead of action this time around, but the harsh reality of what happened on our social media platforms has “woke” several, if not hundreds of people that we had better do exactly the right thing. For me, that means re-starting conversations of proactively increasing diversity within my team. I will say, we do a much better job at putting women into play in a traditionally very white-man industry including the fact that more than 50% of my team are women (my team also has 2 individuals that will provide Spanish brewery tours upon request and that has been incredibly powerful to see). We also are more than 50% female-owned, we have several female brewers including a female brewing manager, and I think we’ve done a great job making sure women feel supported, empowered, and represented. Now, our diversity statistics don’t stand up to that right now, but I’m committed to proactively changing that. I hope that’s just the start.

I had the opportunity to march with a movement in downtown Asheville yesterday as well. I brought my son, who has never been to a march or protest before and I almost BAWLED when I heard him scream “Black Lives Matter” without hesitation. Wow! (okay, check your white emotions, Amy) Now, I am heavily committed to understanding at very least that this is not the movement nor the time for my voice to be heard, which probably seems a little backward considering I’m writing a freaking novel of a blog about my white experience (and fragility) during this time. Regardless, it was important for me to show up as an ally to the community that needs support, but it’s also important for me to see and hear our black community’s voice right now. I showed up to this rally with a completely open mind and heard the words and looked into the eyes of people who are hurting and begging for change. Not reform… not integration… LIBERATION and change. And I firmly believe that needs to happen.

I left the march to reflect with a few friends – actually my team members! People who I supervise at work were kind enough to invite me and my son along… And last night I watched 13th on Netflix. It’s probably the best place to start if you don’t understand the system behind police brutality, unjust bias against people of color, how the prison system and criminal justice system was basically created to house legal slavery. Oh, this is deep. Slavery was abolished in 1865 and we’re still fighting to end slavery.

I was also taken aback at how fuuuuuucked up our narrative of history was. Now, I’m not new to this – the only diversity in the northern Minnesotan town I grew up in is the Native American population. I got my associate’s degree from the tribal college and as a requirement to graduate, I had to take several classes about Anishinaabe history. Guess what – it’s not pretty. And here I am, trying to relearn a history that has always been there, but was never presented to me. Wait, fuck that – a history that has always been there, but I never actively chose to learn it. I’m 36 years old and actively choosing to learn… it’s about time!

So here are a few resources, and I’ll continue sharing as I find more:

I’m currently reading the Autobiography of Malcom X (mind currently being blown), but I think Homegoing is another important one to read. The Killers of the Flower Moon is about systemic racism against the Osage Tribe but I’ve Never Told Anyone and Stringing Rosaries by Denise Lajimodiere are additional Native American authored books that are important to read.

Here are a few resources that are on my list to work through in regards to racism, antiracism, my own whiteness, or black history:

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – How to be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M. Fleming – White Rage by Carol Anderson – Hitting a Straight Lick with a Brooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston – Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds – The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert – The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence by Laurence Ralph – We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival by Jabari Asim – I Still Did It by Nakia Hill – Dear Martin by Nic Stone – All American Boys by Jason Renolds and Brendan Kiely – Well Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Books by Black Authors you can support: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – Black Leopard Red Wold by Marlon James – Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward – Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi – Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – Indigo by Beverly Jenkins – Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi – Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn – Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat – The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom – The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson – Beloved by Toni Morrison – Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin – The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I’m sure there are plenty more on both fronts but that’s a good place to start…

Here’s a list of Black owned craft breweries to support: https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/black-owned-breweries-us

23 Black owned wineries giving me LIFE right now: https://melaninislife.com/blogs/lifestyle/black-owned-wine-business

20 Black owned businesses in Asheville to support: https://avltoday.6amcity.com/black-owned-businesses-asheville-nc/

Black owned businesses in Columbia/Baltimore MD area: https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/section/fooddrink/black-owned-food-businesses-to-support-in-baltimore

Not shockingly, I couldn’t find information for black or minority owned businesses in Duluth, MN so there’s TONS of work to do there, but ironically enough, Minneapolis is thriving with Black owned and minority owned businesses… Apparently we just have to catch up the people in power to that beauty of diversity and equity.

One last thing for now, a few movies, documentaries, and shows to watch: I would start with 13th on Netflix, but PLEASE also watch the Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson because it’s Pride month and more people should know about the Stonewall Uprising – LA ’92 – Remastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke – Murder of Fred Hampton – Do the Right Thing – Malcom X – The Fruitvale Station – Selma – I am Not Your Negro – Whose Streets? – When They See Us – Dear White People – Watchmen

I know these are all just a handful, and I’ve definitely had plenty more thoughts throughout the week as I’ve been processing how to support my friends and family of color. Ultimately, I urge you to have conversations either with yourself or people you trust. Make small actions everyday that contribute to antiracism. Check your whiteness and your emotions and listen to others to learn where to direct your energy. And finally, spend 23 minutes watching my friend Caleb if you’re having a hard time understanding your role in all of this. Find Your Frontline here.

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