Racism: It's Real

| by Shannon Williams

Last week I attended, along with some of my Armstrong McGuire teammates, the Groundwater Training hosted by the YMCA of the Triangle and led by Monica and Jennifer from the Racial Equity Institute

One of the opening images included a picture of a single dead fish and another of a massive pile of dead fish. The question Monica posed went something like this: "When you are out for a meditative walk at the lake and you come upon a single dead fish, what do you think?” Answers included things like “Was the fish sick? Was the fish old? Did the fish make a mistake? Did it get hit by a boat?”

Then, Monica asked, “What do you think when you come back the next day and there are 2,000 dead fish?” The audience quickly replied, “What is wrong with the water?”

This example was used to show the difference between an isolated problem and a systemic problem. For the next three hours Monica and Jennifer shared massive amounts of data from very credible sources including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, the state of Texas, the CDC, and others to illustrate that racism in our country is systemic.

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Last month, to better understand and appreciate the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our personal and professional lives, Rev. Lisa Yebuah facilitated a discussion with our staff team. She started by telling us that as we think about diversity, equity, and inclusion it is critical to understand the historical and current impacts of racism.

Hmmm, I am starting to sense a theme.

As a white, American woman, I can honestly say that the impact of racism is not something I think about every day. Until recently I had not really considered how it impacts my daily actions, my implicit biases, and my decision making. Now, my head is swirling.

I am very, very far from having answers, but I am learning about the reality of systemic racism in our country and how that impacts me individually. It’s uncomfortable.

Believe me, I am not looking for sympathy about my personal discomfort. I am simply being transparent. The easier path is to go back to not thinking about racism, but I don’t think that is possible for me now that I have scratched the surface of knowledge. I know now that it is critically important that we talk about racism—as communities (thank you, YMCA), as teams (thank you, Armstrong McGuire), and as families (thank you, Jeff and Carson).

Putting racism on the table for discussion is a first step. There are many steps to follow. Honestly, I don’t even know what the next step is, but no longer can I push racism aside. I hope you will join me in the conversation and enlighten my path and our collective paths along the way.

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