If you’ve read any of my posts on this site before, you’d know that it’s pretty much exclusively my random thoughts on pop. culture and more specifically, Star Trek. All of which can be inherently political in many ways, but I don’t usually dig as directly into current events as I’m going to do now. My thoughts here will most likely mean very little to anyone other than myself and that’s okay.
All of us in this world wear many different hats and are made up of multiple identities. This is a fact often made known by our various Twitter bios, or more tangibly by our appearance, interests, and hobbies. One hat I often wear and am known for is that of a Trekkie. In many ways, being a lifelong Trek fan has shaped who I am and what I believe. Over the years, the franchise has espoused and promoted many of values I now hold dear – tolerance and scientific literacy for example. Most relevant to this moment, however, is its stance on anti-racism.
In classic Trek, the notion had always been IDIC: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. The show’s depiction of anti-racism indeed was radical for its time. It gave us several stories and allegories promoting progressive ideals, one of which even gave us Kirk and Uhura correcting Abraham Lincoln on the bridge of the Enterprise for using a racial slur.
It was a bold depiction, however the scene is ultimately emblematic of a kind of hopeful naiveté of the time and a failure to really grapple with the historical context – and more specifically pain – associated with the word itself. Uhura simply responds with, “in our century, we’ve learned not to fear words.”
Fortunately, since the 1960s, Star Trek‘s philosophy has evolved. While stories of prejudice and tolerance are still often told through allegory and metaphor, the newer iterations (most notably, Deep Space Nine) have made a point to tackle these issues more directly and depict the nuances of the historical trauma that racism has wrought on individuals and our society.
All of that being said, I’m not writing this to talk about Star Trek. I bring it up because it’s reflective of my own journey as a progressive and an anti-racist. In both of these realms, I too come from a place of naiveté. Growing up, I have undoubtedly had my fair share of racist thoughts and words that I would like nothing more than to take back. I can’t say that I’ve had an easy life, but I will always recognize the privilege I was afforded growing up white and male.
I’ve had the privilege to grow and learn about racism in at my own pace rather than have it thrust upon me. I’ve had the privilege to unknowingly and knowingly benefit from institutions that were built for me succeed. I’ve had the privilege to tune out and insulate myself from social and political problems that make me uncomfortable.
Aside from being a Trekkie, another hat that I wear is that of a teacher. I teach elementary age students of all backgrounds, but many of which come from minority communities. In my time as a teacher I’ve seen the ingrained hurt, fear and in many cases, rage, that our history of racism and subjugation has instilled in many of our kids. And with that, I’ve seen firsthand the inequities that are either perpetuated or exacerbated by the school system. There are indeed plenty of teachers out there that are part of the problem, but I’ve had the privilege to know countless teacher colleagues and education activists who are actively trying to dismantle these systems. I know I am far from perfect and I sometimes struggle and falter, but I do my best to count myself among them.
I teach in the same city where I’ve made a life and home for myself: Minneapolis. Which leads me to another of my hats: Minnesotan. I’ve always felt pride in where I’m from. I love my state; I love our sports teams, our arts and theater scenes, our parks, our restaurants, and I’ve had the privilege to love the thought that I lived in a progressive city and state. Sure we often vote blue in general elections – but if I want to wear the final hat that I’m going to write about, I need to recognize that we have a lot of work to do. Along with being a Trekkie, teacher, Minnesotan and countless other things I’m not going to get into here, I hope to be an ally. I hope to be an ally to my students, to my friends, to my neighbors, and to anyone who experiences struggles because of systems and attitudes that were built to help me succeed – and today, that means being an ally to the black community here in Minnesota.
In my state, we’ve seen countless injustices based on racism and hate. We’ve made national headlines for the police murders of Jamar Clark, Philando Castille, and now George Floyd. On top of that, Minnesota has deep racial inequities in educational achievement, employment, and homeownership. Sure, Minnesota tends to put on an air of progressivism, but if we really want to practice what we preach, we need to start by recognizing the pervasive and deadly problems that exist right in our own backyard.
Another privilege I have is that I can make mistakes and comfortably know I won’t be killed. I will never know the pain that members of the black community are feeling today – and feel every day – and I know I’ll never fully understand what racism truly feels like. But I hope to be a source of love, empathy and support for those who need it. I still screw up and I’m sure I will still have bad thoughts and takes from time to time. What white allies must do is recognize that we will need to continually check ourselves and challenge ingrained racist attitudes and institutions if we really hope to help foster change.
We all need to do our best to strive for a better future no matter what hats we wear. If you are a white guy like me who happened to stumble across this post, please check out these resources: 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice and Anti-Racism Resources. And most importantly, know when to shut up and give space. Let’s refrain from ‘All Lives Matter-ing’ others’ trauma. Offer support when it’s requested, be a source of empathy when you can, challenge the status quo in front of you, and remember to listen.
To support the call for justice that’s been going on, check out the recourses listed out by Minnesota ACLU.