Written June 5, 2020
Hey, I'm Jarrod. Usually this is a design newsletter. But people are in the streets protesting. I've taken time to listen, and now it's time to speak. Some if it might still be wrong, but here's what I've learned so far.
Dear people of color: I'm listening, I'm with you, and I'm trying to do better.
Dear fellow white people:
Last October I moved from the city to the suburbs for better schools for my kids.
Often, “better schools” or “better neighborhood” are white-people-code for “mostly white people living there”.
Knowing this, my wife and I (both white) debated for over a year about whether moving for better schools was wrong. Eventually, we chose to move. We decided, when you love someone, you do everything you can for them. And we love our kids.
My family needed something, and I was in a position of power to make it happen. So I did.
In the end, the decision we made isn't the point. This doesn't excuse my actions in any way, but:
White privilege is not just moving to the suburbs. It's being able to.
Just as I did, my kids will grow up going to nice schools, have every opportunity available, and will never fear for their safety when they see a police officer.
And that is exactly the kind of life they deserve. It's the kind of life every kid and every person deserves.
The problem is that I can have that life but some people can't. It's that having a comfortable life is so much easier for me. It's that some people don't even have the chance to move out to the suburbs (or wherever they want). It's that some people in our old neighborhood might be stuck there, but I wasn't.
I am still trying to understand if it was wrong for me to move out to the suburbs. If the wrongness is in that I have things I don't deserve and did not earn fairly, or purely in that people of color don't have the same opportunities and suffer because of broken systems. Or both.
And I am still trying to process how disgusting it is that the same systems that made it easy for me to move are the same systems that cause the deaths of Black people.
(I know my readers live all over the world, sorry for the American-centric view, but I hope this still applies to you.)
America was built on the ideal of freedom from persecution; no matter where you come from, what you look like, or what god you do or don't praise, you are free. We fought wars over this exact issue. We fought and bled for this human right. Here, you are safe. You can have that nice house in the suburbs, no matter who you are.
Or that's how I had thought it works. But it's not.
Americans are being persecuted, right now and for far too long. And white people like me have done nothing about it.
I am so incredibly ashamed at my part in this, and even more so that white people do not see violence against our Black neighbors and fellow Americans as our problem. That's wrong. We should all be ashamed that the laws and systems we made not only put George Floyd in harm's way, but directly caused his death and countless others.
And we should be ashamed that we allow politics to get in the way of the safety of anyone. Our politics have become so divisive that we can't feel empathy for a person in pain if it threatens our political stance, and that is so very wrong.
This moment of protest is not about politics or who you voted for. It's about every person's right to live free from fear and persecution. Those terrible things aren't supposed to happen here. America is supposed to be better than this. But they have happened here, every day, for hundreds of years.
I stand up and act for the sake of Black lives not just because of the American ideal, but because it is right.
How dare we claim to believe in freedom while we allow these terrible things to happen at our own front door. How dare we claim faith in God's love when we allow such pain and suffering in our own communities. How dare we put the value of storefronts and cars before the value of human lives.
People of color are hurting, and I helped cause it. We white people made a system that favors us, and it is wrong. Now it's time to change our hearts and our systems, rip out every trace of prejudice, and let go of our advantages. Nothing else is enough.
I am angry at myself. And I am angry at the way the world works. I don't blame anyone for wanting to burn it all down. And as I sit here with an audience of tens of thousands reading my words, I cannot imagine how it must feel to face this your whole life with no one to listen to you.
If you're a white person feeling attacked, remember: this protest is not about Democrat vs Republican or Black vs White. It's about our fellow Americans dying. It is about very real pain.
This protest is about choosing to be who we say we are.
Black Lives Matter. Start acting like it.
Design's Iron Fist is a collection of essays with advice for both design learners and professional designers. It's been featured as one of the best free design books by the Creative Bloq and the AIGA.
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