I’m a white female, from a middle class/blue-collar family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While I certainly didn’t grow up privileged, I’m very aware of white privilege. It’s a real thing, and there’s no getting around it.
I’ve been in a little bit of a bubble recently, and have been behind on a lot of the racial events. i.e. I decided to take myself for a drive and a run in downtown Chicago over the weekend… know what? That couldn’t happen! Yesterday I was checking in on Instagram and saw nothing but blacked-out images. My initial reaction: Instagram is broken! Nope, just behind again (#BlackoutTuesday).
The effects of this George Floyd story have been incredible. We are already a nation that is hurting, due to COVID-19 – this was a punch to the gut. We have already been so devastated… adding insult to injury is putting this country over the edge. How can we regain our unity, and rebuild community?
I myself, while yes – caucasion, female, grew up in the suburbs – have experienced a lot with regards to race relations. Here are a few examples:
- Went to school in Washington Heights, Milwaukee – one of the few non-segregated communities in the area. I was even fortunate enough to teach at the same school for a number of years, later. The diversity in that neighborhood was so natural, and fantastic – and has been for a long time. I’m still very close friends with some ladies I went to grade school with. We are all from such different backgrounds… but as kids, it didn’t matter… who knew? What we now appreciate is that, if you’re exposed to other races and ethnicities as a kid, odds are you’ll be more understanding to other cultures as an adult.
- When I was home from college one summer, my second part-time job in the area was waitressing third shift at the Denny’s near HWY 100 and North Ave. It was a terrible job, but I made money for school and learned a hell of a lot about race relations via my colleagues there, as well as customers. I’ve got stories. I was one of few employees who had my own car. I was sometimes asked, by my manager, to drop off other co-workers to their homes when our shift was done… because we finished at a time when the buses weren’t even running. This white girl drove in to some not great neighborhoods at some not great times… but how could I say no? I remember one co-worker thanking me for the ride, then saying “now get your white ass out of here as fast as you can!”
- I was often uncertain of what I wanted to do for my work. One year I enlisted with the marine corps as a musician. I was sent to basic training on Parris Island, South Carolina. While that experience didn’t end up panning out for me (long story… I can tell you more over coffee some time), I learned so many things from my six weeks “on the playground,” as they say. Want to see diversity? Check out our U.S. military. Being around so many women from so many different states, in some cases countries and backgrounds was nothing short of fascinating. What I didn’t already appreciate with regards to other races, from prior experiences, I sure did learn to from living with 40 very different young women with a wide spectrum of last names.
WMV intern Giselle mentioned to me yesterday, in our meeting, as she’s been working on a musician database for us, that we could use more diversity. I looked over what I’d done in the past – and agreed. While I’ve prided myself in not being afraid to go into different neighborhoods with live music, and using a variety of genres with what we do, we haven’t really focused on diversity as a whole. That is changing, starting now. Please let me know if there are great neighborhoods and/or musicians you can recommend that would benefit from what Wisconsin Music Ventures has to offer. We’ll be doing some research, in the meantime.
I’ve included a quote here, from one of my favorite black sheroes, Oprah Winfrey (another personal tidbit: I’d sent Oprah fan mail in the ’90s, and still have an autographed picture she sent back!). What I love about this quote – and what I think we can learn from it right now, as a country – is that we are taking our stand, showing that what has been done is wrong, and pushing for change. Let’s continue pushing. But let’s not dwell on this – because dwelling on negativity will only fuel those powerful emotions that are triggering violence that much more.
We are already a nation that’s hurting… how much more can we take? Let’s become a nation that is unified again – rebuilding off of what we’ve learned, continuing to push for change, and picking each other back up… while learning from and about each other.
In the meantime, WMV will work to do more… because music is, after all, the universal language. We can do our part to build bridges, as best we can.