Here is the entire speech given by Donya Anderson at the Black Lives Matter Comm’unity’ Event and March in Hillsboro on Sunday, June 14:
You know, most people are deathly afraid of speaking in public, but I love it! Especially if I’m given a microphone. I am sure we are all aware of the revolution that is taking place in America and all over the world right now, the catalyst being the death of George Floyd. For me personally, the past few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster. Although I have experienced a great deal of pain and sadness, I have also experienced joy and excitement from witnessing white people come alongside black people in massive numbers. White people saying, “We are no longer going to sit back and be silent.” I have had several white people tell me personally that they support me, that they will fight for me. I have never experienced this before. Yes, I know my white best friend, Stacie Myers, will take on anyone if they ever get out of line with me. But to hear this support come from white people who are not necessarily very close to me, those who are simply acquaintances, or ones who knew me in high school or college is so powerful. Thank you to those of you who have reached out and offered your support.
Alright, so today I want to speak to you about two things: education and bridge-building. I will start with education. As I stated earlier, our planet is experiencing a revolution. People are fed up with racial injustice, police brutality, inequality and much more. I have received several texts, emails, and messages from white people asking, “What can we do to help?” My response is to always try to educate or provide resources that will allow for learning to happen. I will be doing that very thing today. So, I am going to be very transparent here.
I’m black, I don’t know if you all knew this. I’m a black woman who grew up in southern Oklahoma and I don’t know my own history. In my Oklahoma History class, we were not taught about the Tulsa Massacre and I did not learn about this until two years ago. For those of you who are where I was two years ago and have never heard of this, the Tulsa Race Massacre occurred on May 31, 1921. Black Americans had experienced a great increase in wealth due to an oil-boom in this area. These black people were able to open up their own hospital. They were doctors, lawyers; had their own banks, and a movie theatre. This area started to be referred to as Black Wall Street. This affluent community was attacked on May 31 by white mobs and planes. These planes dropped turpentine bombs that obliterated this community in two days. 1,256 houses were burned, and many black people were injured and/or killed. There still is no concrete idea of just how many black people lost their lives in what has been referred to as the worst race massacre in history. No one was ever arrested.
Another piece of history I was unfamiliar with was the practice of redlining and racial covenants. Thanks to social media, I found an article that explained this unethical practice. The government created the “Home Owner’s Loan Corporation” HOLC. This group basically made these maps that assigned the areas in a city a grade. This grade was given to banks to help them determine who they should and should not lend money to. Black neighborhoods received D grades, which meant they were considered hazardous to lend to. EVEN IF black people could afford to buy a home, banks would not do business with them based on this grading system put into effect by this group that was formed by the government.
Then there were racial covenants. These covenants were provisions in a home deed or title that restricted the sale of a property to anyone who was not white. These were very common. All of this occurred between 1920-1950 around the same time there was a huge boom in home equity and wealth creation. White Americans were able to take advantage of this prosperous time while black people were prevented from getting mortgages in the neighborhood they already lived in, and also kept out of neighborhoods they could have afforded to move into.
Friday, I saw a social media post from a white woman that one of my friends shared, and the white woman was saying black people are racists because we have our own black colleges, we have our own award shows, we have BET, which stands for Black Entertainment Television, and we have scholarships that are only for black people. There are many things on social media that I see and want to respond to, but some of it is so ignorant and luckily my common sense kicks in and I tell myself, girl you need to keep your job or I have to constantly remind myself that I’m saved and don’t have time for this. But I had to respond to this post. I let my friend know that black people had to create their own colleges because they were not allowed to attend white colleges. We had to create our own award shows because we were being looked over, which still happens with the Oscars. We had to make our own scholarships because we still weren’t receiving the ones that had previously only been available to white students. We had to create our own television show, BET, because we weren’t being represented on tv like our white counterparts. This is all in our history.
Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Kathryn Johnston, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Amadou Diallo, Mike Brown, Kimani Gray, Kenneth Chamberlain, Travares McGill, Tamir Rice, Aiyanna Stanley-Jones, and Freddie Gray. These are all black people that were killed at the hands of cops and these same cops were found innocent with no conviction. Some white people are upset that there has been looting and destruction, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t support those things at all. But can’t you see…from the little bit of information I have shared how tired and angry black people must be?! Education, people. WE must start educating ourselves on Black history and what is going on right now. You will never start to understand how black people feel or more importantly WHY you should be in support of black people. There are many different streaming services offering free content. Please do me a favor and go watch a documentary, show, or movie. I recommend starting with the four-part series “When They See Us.”
This brings me to my second point. Bridge Building. What is bridge building? Well, I’m glad you asked. The basic definition of bridge building is trying to form communication and friendly contact between people. People who are bridge-builders bring people together. I’m going to be very transparent again. When Trayvon Martin was murdered and his murderer acquitted, I had no desire to bring people together. I was filled with rage and wanted justice. When Sandra Bland’s body could be seen on camera being slammed to the ground by a cop twice her size and then learning that she died later in her jail cell, bridge building was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to break things and scream. When I watched Ahmaud Arbery being gunned down by two racists civilians, again, I had ZERO desire for unity. Again, I was filled with so much rage, and I wanted to fight. But, for some reason when I watched George Floyd’s murder, it was different. This death rocked me to my core and made me weary in my soul. I had no fight, I felt no rage, just a deep, deep sadness. Through my weariness I had an epiphany…a revelation. It was time to start building bridges. So, this is what I have been doing that last two weeks, and what I’m actually going to start right now. Bridge building is hard and consists of having difficult conversations among POC of white people. For example, white people, I completely understand if you do not believe that racism exists, that there is no systemic racism, or that POC get treated differently. I will say that again. White people, I understand if you don’t believe in racism, systemic racism, or inequality. If you have never experienced racism or racial injustices, it is going to be hard for you to grasp. I get it.
But the thing is, now you have social media, google, YouTube. You have ways to EDUCATE yourself, and it is time for you to get WOKE. For those of you who do not know what WOKE means it is to become alert to injustice in society, especially racism. This is what is happening all across the world and there is no longer an excuse! You cannot be afraid of your beliefs or your thoughts anymore. So, what if they are racist?! This is not your identity, it’s not who you are! I would much rather a White person say to me that they have had racists thoughts and issues with this but are working on it rather than someone say “I don’t see color” or “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.” Well yea, but your brown brothers and sisters in Christ have been suffering and it would be great if you acknowledged that and stood with us in the struggle. I’m going to start bridge building. I want to do this with the people that hear Black Lives Matter and respond with “but All Lives Matter.” How can all lives matter if the black ones don’t though?! See? There is a disconnect. I want to build bridges with people who think racism is a myth, and of course, with people who are like-minded. I have come to understand now, that this is one of the only ways that we are going to truly reach unity. Through seeing different perspectives and fully understanding each other.
So, I encourage you, white people. Don’t let fear keep you from having these hard self-reflections, don’t let fear keep you from reaching out and having these conversations to better understand, and definitely don’t let fear keep you from the unity that is coming. Thank you again for letting me speak.
Photo courtesy of Karrie Rathbone