A Conversation on Racial Violence

In light of the current social climate of the U.S. and the protests that have been arising in cities across the nation, Out Leadership held space for a conversation on racial violence.

Hosted by CEO, Todd Sears, the discussion featured panelists Ricardo Lara, the Insurance Commissioner of California, Colorado Representative Leslie Herod, and Pennsylvania Representative Brian Sims. In this conversation, the panelists emphasized the need for the LGBTQ+ community – especially the white LGBTQ+ community – to stand with Black people. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community often comes hand-in-hand with oppression, and because of this firsthand exposure to discrimination, panelists highlighted the hypocrisy of white LGBTQ+ community members that remain silent on racial issues. 

Commissioner Lara gave a moving personal anecdote about a time he was attending an official event and somebody handed him their car keys, mistaking him for a valet simply because he was Latino. These personal stories are vital to these conversations because they show the ways racism is normalized to the point where it happens indiscriminately. These microaggressions are both products of and factors that lead to larger problems such as police brutality and a skewed justice system. The panelists indicated the need for white people to listen to and amplify the voices of Black and brown people who speak about their experiences. They underscored the necessity of leaning into the discomfort that comes with conversations about race, because they are often uncomfortable – especially if one is unaccustomed to having these conversations – but they are invaluable. 

Representative Sims talked about the importance of understanding allyship as something that is done, rather than an ally being something that one just is. Allyship means continuous action that is carried out every single day, because people of color feel the effects of racism every day – the fear that comes with the possibility of death and no justice is something that Black people in America fear every day. Representative Sims explained that allyship can be practiced through these conversations about race; they need to leave activist spaces and happen in white people’s homes, around the dinner table and with conservative family members. Sears spoke about how it is the job of white people to radicalize and educate other white people about race, not the job of POC, because white people listen the most to other white people. Representative Herod talked about how there are domestic terrorists who are trying to use Black pain for their personal gain, dividing people and inciting riots and race wars. These are the types of situations in which white allies have a duty to step up and practice active allyship, holding their people accountable before any harm comes to Black and Brown people or to this movement.

Representative Sims ended the panel with a powerful question: What comes next? After listening to and amplifying Black voices, after having these uncomfortable conversations, what comes next? He explained that there are three important privileges white people have that POC do not: legal privileges, financial privileges, and the privilege of making mistakes. On top of having more connections to people who make and enforce the laws we live by, white people’s voices are more valued in legal spaces. White people can use this privilege to call their representatives or people they know who have legal power and demand accountability, uplifting the concerns of POC. White people also have financial privileges that are often generational – from wealth that was built off of the backs of Black people. This means that they have the ability to give the reparations that are owed and fund the organizations that are on the ground, supporting communities of color. Lastly, the privilege of being able to make mistakes refers to the fact that white people are given many more chances to pick themselves up again after they fall, which means that there is no reason for white people to remain silent on racial issues, because until we are all free, none of us are free.

 

Proudly Resilient- Conversation on Racial Violence 5