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Guest Editor — The lure of whiteness and our role to resist

 

By Dr. Nancy Dome

Ihadn’t intended to start my column this way, but January 6, 2021, the nation watched in horror as a mob of insurrectionists stormed the Capitol Building. I sat in my home in a state of shock, grief, and a healthy measure of anger—but not disbelief, because I knew this would most likely happen and I knew without a doubt that the terrorists would be given relatively free reign to wreak havoc. Unfortunately, I was not disappointed. I know I was not alone in my grief and anger, yet I am also aware that many felt these lawless acts were justified. However, what we witnessed was white supremacy in action and the negative consequences of white people’s unwillingness to condemn the hate sooner. We often focus on the negative impact of institutions of oppression on marginalized groups, but we rarely talk about their impact on the dominant group. We saw it firsthand as law enforcement struggled with how to handle the mob that they had been trained to control. The dissonance they experienced endangered not only their lives but the lives they are sworn to protect. So today, many people have been echoing the cry of “How did we get here?” I would like to offer that we have never not been here.

I wasraised by my grandmother, who was the product of 1912 Alabama. She was born and raised during the height of Jim Crow. Her primary functions while raising us were to keep us safe and fed, in that order. She knew the racial workings of our country; knew the impact our skin color would have on our lived experiences. My grandmother did not mince words and it was in our best interest to keep our heads down and nod in agreement. We learned to communicate concisely, honestly, and clearly about all things. We were taught the value of community and the importance of standing up for what was righteous and good.

I share this now because her consistent message to us all those years ago was that whiteness and racism were embedded in the fabric of this country, and we had best understand that and its impact as we navigate through life. We saw that loud and clear yesterday. Hers was a message of preparedness to keep us safe—and of hope for a better future. That hope has inspired me and led me to advocate for equity for those that are most marginalized in our society, whether due to race, gender, sexual orientation, identity, age, or religion.

When I think of our nation in general, but Sonoma Valley specifically, and my last six years residing in the county, I have consistently found our greatest barriers to be our inability to effectively communicate with one another and our growing intolerance of differing perspectives. Sonoma has been a great joy to me in many ways—my mentoring experience, the beautiful people I have met and now call friends, the surrounding nature, and of course the amazing wine and food. But it has also been a source of racial anxiety for me from my first month residing in the community of Glen Ellen, from being racially profiled and intimidated by law enforcement, to picking up my wine club order after a hike in the regional park and being treated like the help because I did not fit the profile of a member, and thus was not worthy of the person’s time or consideration. As Sonomans we like to think of our community as warm and welcoming, which it is when you fit the demographic of white and well-off. To date there have been too few of us (BIPOC) in positions of influence to make a significant difference, but with the racial reckoning in which we now find ourselves after the murder of George Floyd, we have a great opportunity to aspire to our stated values and who we say we are. But this call to action is for the whitecommunityofSonomaValley. This is not a black or brown problem to solve; it is our problem to solve. White people are not allies in this work—they must be accomplices.

To that end, we must stay committed and diligent in our quest for racial equity, and our first step in that process is to start having the difficult conversations. We have to start talking about the things that matter most, while finding a way to truly listen to each other through a lens of curiosity rather than judgement. We have to educate ourselves with primary sources, lean into and normalize discomfort, and show tolerance for beliefs we may not share by seeking to understand each other, rather than call one another out when we falter—because we all will. If we are genuinely working toward positive change, then grace needs to be extended when we miss the mark. It is time for us to unpack our fears and truly collaborate to build a community where all of the residents feel valued and seen, and know they belong.

Impact100 has taken a lead in the community to use the current state of our nation as a building block for racial understanding and healing, while supporting other nonprofits to build their knowledge base and begin to walk the talk. They are leaning into the tough topics of implicit bias and white privilege beyond the surface talking points, and exploring how self-reflection and intentionality can support the healing that needs to take place. In this chaos we are being provided an opportunity; I hope you will each consider joining the efforts.

Dr. Nancy Dome is a renowned speaker and leader on equity in school systems and workplaces with over 20 years in the education field as a childcare worker, teacher, and professor. She is the co-founder and CEO of Epoch Education, which provides diversity, equity, and inclusion training to diverse organizations throughout the U.S. A Glen Ellen resident, she works with several community groups in Sonoma, is a group mentor, and enjoys supporting local performing arts. Readers may submit articles of approximately 800 words on topics of local interest for The Guest Editor column Email [email protected] Although we intend to print all submissions, we do reserve the right

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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