Heather Stewman

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This is part II is a series of columns addressing racism in society.

Another part of the path forward is educating ourselves about the whole story of our nation and the people groups within it, as well as those that preceded it. You will be hard-pressed to find that narrative within the covers of traditional texts that were used to form the foundation of our understanding of that story. Most of us have been fed a highly sanitized version, with a few “alternative perspectives” sprinkled in here and there to check the “diversity” box on the curriculum evaluation form, and assuage white guilt.

And while it is important to engage in dialogue with our friends, family, and community-mates of color with open hearts and an attitude of humility — to seat ourselves at the table not just to hear, but to listen to different-yet-equally-important-perspectives and experiences — we also have to take responsibility for our own education, and stop relying on them to do that work for us (sound familiar?). Can you imagine in this county, with statistics being what they are, how tired the few must be having to attempt (for the umpteenth time) to educate the predominantly culturally and historically illiterate majority?

Part of that conversation needs to revolve around recommendations from members of any given people group what books can I read or listen to? What podcasts should I check out? What resources may I consult to become more fully educated about the historical realities your people group has faced being part of the rise and dominance of America? What resources may I consult to become more fully educated about the realities facing your people group in our country today? (You might consider starting with “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” an online series hosted by Emmanuel Acho.)

You will likely find that the answers lie beyond Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes; Sandra Cisneros and Cesar Chavez; Chief Joseph and Sherman Alexie; Amy Tan and Kevin Kwan. You may find yourself discovering how institutional racism came to be, and what it looks like today. You might find yourself seeing parallels between modern migrant workers and the African slaves of yesteryear. You might begin to wonder how as a nation we enter into war over genocide in foreign lands, while glossing over the history of genocide on our own soil. You may begin to learn — and perhaps even accept — your own privilege and what that privilege affords you in the world today.

Yet even these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. A deeply-penetrating, mostly-hidden, cold, hard reality that is super inconvenient and definitely uncomfortable to take a look at. Part of growing up — an important element of maturity — is taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions. If learning about perspectives beyond your own, if seeking a fuller understanding of history seems like too much of an investment — if it will take too much of your time — then you have to ask yourself some important questions.

How real is your outrage? You can’t possibly fight for justice if you have no understanding of the issues that perpetuate injustice. Does your soapbox sit solely on a Facebook platform or street corner, or does it penetrate deeply enough into your heart to take action? To make an investment? Not for the world to see, but for your heart to see. For your mind to understand. For every part of your being to be informed and infused with the unabridged, tapestried story, and from that place to live a life dedicated to the proposition that all men (and women) are created equal, and have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights--that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And if you feel nothing at all — if perhaps your outrage is directed primarily at folks who have been trying so desperately for so long to be seen and heard — then there’s a different set of questions you need to ask yourself.

Heather Stewman is an Ellensburg resident.

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