live on an island. Your island is small, but secure, and you have everything
you need to survive. You have as much contact with the mainland as you want,
but can switch off communication at will. You also have the freedom to leave
the island to travel to the mainland if you wish. Your island is comfortable
and for the most part it is safe.
it “White Island.”
is my home right now. My city is 93% white, the ten churches we have visited
since moving here over a year ago have been 99% white and all of my neighbors
are white. I am a stay-at-home mom of three children, four and under and never
truly need to leave a five mile radius from my home unless I choose to. My
portal to the outside world—the mainland--is a Smartphone with apps to read the
news, listen to podcasts and stay in the social media stream. But that device
also has an “off” button.
I can ignore
the fact that there is a mainland if I choose to do so.
where many white people like me live. And when the news of the happenings “out
there” on the mainland begin to disturb us, we simply shut down our portals for
a little while so we can move on in peace with our quiet lives on White Island.
We have the luxury of an “off” button.
who do not dwell on White Island do not have that privilege. They cannot tune
out or turn off the news because they are living it.
realized I lived on White Island until a friend brought a black baby from the
mainland to live on the island with us. It was only then that I realized her
non-white son was treated differently than my white children. Soon, I began
to stop tuning out and start tuning in to the pleas of those on the mainland. They
had been calling out for a long time, but the stations I had frequented weren’t
picking up their cries. It wasn’t until I began dialing in to different sources
that didn’t originate with White Island that I began to hear a broader range of
I cannot get
off of this island right now. But that doesn’t mean I am powerless. And it
doesn’t mean I must live in ignorance of the mainland. So what can those of us
who feel stuck on White Island do?
1. Listen and learn.
speak or act, those on the mainland have asked that we research the problem—with
humility. Michelle Higgins said in a
recent podcast that “Solidarity looks a lot like humility.” Our black
sisters and brothers want us to get buried in their history, pain and struggle
before we emerge. They will respect our silence at the beginning as we step
down from our leading, teaching, and lecturing and take a seat in the row of
desks for a while. So sit down, listen, take notes and do
2. Find friends who are different from you
and visit the mainland.
We will live
in greater solidarity with others as we notice that those who are different
from us are also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Tears,
rage and joy are part of humanity. We will see this as we enter life with
someone who is different from us and perhaps begin to empathize. Do you attend
a gym, take your kids to a park or work with someone different from you? Don’t
be weird, but do be intentional about pursuing a friendship with someone who
doesn’t live on your island.
3. Move off the island.
in our country have the coloring skills of a five-year-old who is content to
keep solid colors in the lines of the coloring book. It’s time to develop our
skills as an artist and dabble in the magnificence of a mixed pallet. This may
require that we make plans to move off White Island all together. Find a
diverse school for your children to attend, visit a new park, or look for a new
church. Research the demographics of a neighborhood before buying a house and
be intentional about seeking out diversity.
4. Use your platform.
How many lives
do you, your spouse or your kids touch in a day? Who is in your square you interact
with on a daily or weekly basis? What do you talk about? How can you cast light
on topics some prefer to keep hidden in darkness for fear of offending? How can
you use your voice in your particular slice of life to speak out and speak up
for those who don’t have a voice?
5. Drench your everyday world in color.
people of color do you come across right there in your home? If you are a
parent, do your children have books,
dolls, decorations or games with
people that look different from them? What about you? How diverse is your
social media feed? What steps can you take to diversify your Facebook, Instagram
or Twitter feeds? Who can you follow who will give you a fresh perspective from
the mainland? If you are a reader, how many books have you read by people of
color this year? Do you watch T.V. shows or movies or read magazines featuring
people of color? The mainland is always reading about and watching stories of
White Island, maybe it’s time for us to branch out.
6. Don’t tune out or turn off.
Labels: colorblind, diversity, race, social justice, white privilege