When the professor for my freshman English class took roll on the first day, she noticed two Robinsons, both from Pasadena, California, on her list. She peered at us over the podium and asked, in her charming southern drawl, “Brother and sister?”
Michael and I looked at each other for the first time. He was tall and handsome, dark skinned, intelligent brown eyes, and a wide bright smile that instantly made me like him. I, by contrast, could not be whiter, blonde, freckled, blue-eyed. As if by tacit agreement, we two smiled at each other and looked back at her. “Yes,” we said simultaneously.
For the next four years, Michael and I occasionally introduced each other as brother or sister with genuine affection. I wish that our siblinghood were closer to true, and I deeply regret that it has taken me too long to acknowledge how wide that societal divide is and how much work I am bound to do to address it. I am guilty of being silent too often, and I have not done enough. I have work to do.
I haven’t posted much during this pandemic, partly because of overwhelm and overload, but also because I sense keenly my privilege at this moment. I cannot justify my grievances while there is real suffering in our country. I’ve got problems, but they pale in comparison. Pun intended.
At this moment, my country is asking me, “Brother and sister?” And my answer is an emphatic YES.
I will assuredly make more mistakes as I stumble forward in the terrain of racial justice, but I will move forward. I am committed to learning more, listening more, and doing more. My brother’s life depends on it.
If you are looking for information, context and perspective on this issue, here are a few resources to start with:
These podcasts are particularly instructive:
Here are some quality nonfiction and fiction titles that are well worth the time:
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams
Anything and everything by Maya Angelou
There are many films worth watching, including:
If Beale Street Could Talk
There are a lot of people doing compelling work. Here are a few:
Austin Channing Brown
Donate and Vote
Please and thank you.