I was blessed with two loving parents. I listened to them. I learned from them. They were my teachers. When I became an adult and then a mother of two children, I became the teacher.
But today, our roles have changed. My children have become my teacher and I am the student. Their lessons are about racism that is around us and maybe even in our hearts. They are teaching me that it is no longer enough to just say, “I am not a racist.” They are teaching me how we need to be anti-racist.
Seeing my children and this generation in Vermont and across the country as teachers gives me hope. But it also tells me that I have much to learn and unlearn. The lessons are hard; our history and today’s times are full of pain, of oppression, of suffering, of privilege. Taking responsibility for our history, as well as the history we were never taught and for today’s times is difficult and uncomfortable.
I sought a seat in the Vermont State House of Representatives to improve the lives of all Vermonters. As the academic, writer and lecturer, Rachel Cargle, explains, “To get there for people -- regardless of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation and ability -- requires knowledge, empathy and action.”
Today’s anti-racism struggle and specifically the knowledge, empathy and action we need to be successful in this struggle is not just the burden for people of color to carry. White people have a crucial role in this struggle.
Allow me to share the words of Madison Schaeffer, someone you probably do not know. Madison is a friend of a neighbor, and a fellow white person. Madison wrote these words in response to the murder of George Floyd:
“Most of us walk through life with the desperate hope that we will never experience certain types of unimaginable grief. We hope we will not lose our children. We hope we will not lose our spouses. We hope we will not lose our innocence, our autonomy, our dignity. But the truth is that just because we can't imagine it does not mean that it is not reality for others. … I do not know how to grieve what it means to be black in America. I don't know what it is to have a gun drawn on me at a traffic stop. I don't worry that I will be murdered in broad daylight for the accusation of a crime I didn't commit. My family history doesn't include oppression and slavery. But it is not just the overt violence: I am not at higher risk of dying in pregnancy. I am not less likely to be hired because of my name on a resume. No one will ever cross the street to get away from me at night. … I am not trying to survive a system that is profoundly unfair, inequitable and unjust. I don't know how to imagine this reality because I do not live in it. I can't know. I will never know. I can offer my profound sadness that this is the reality for so many people in our country, but that is all. I have privilege. And that privilege protects me from fear.
“So I will not stand in judgment of other people's grief. It isn't my place. It isn't my sorrow. It isn't my incredibly justified rage. But just so we're clear: This is my fight. And it should be yours. It should be all of ours. We have to do better. Because I never want this country to allow ourselves to find itself in another stage of grief: acceptance.”
Acceptance cannot be acceptable. Black lives matter. Let us, together, seek knowledge, build empathy and take action, become anti-racists and do the work of improving the lives of all Vermonters.
Dolan lives in Waitsfield, Vermont.