Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform today. She shared testimony about white supremacist violence.
In a moving exchange with AOC she showed what white privilege is and how it can be used to fight white supremacy and for equality.
"I have been given a huge platform…because I’m white. Many Black parents, Muslim parents, Jewish parents lose their children and nobody pays attention."
True solidarity. pic.twitter.com/imwqcOnjzT
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) May 16, 2019
She does several things here.
I believe in learning what I need to learn and then putting it back out as simply and straightforward as possible for the listener. I am still doing that.
First, she recognizes that her privilege means that people are paying attention to her tragic loss, but that many others are forgotten.
Second, she talks about actively working to learn about privilege.
Third, she uses what she learns to try to teach others.
Many people think being non-racist is OK, and that’s enough to solve our country’s problems. And instead we need to be actively anti-racist . . .
Non-racist is saying I don’t recognize anybody’s color, I think that we are all equal and should all be treated fairly. And that’s kind to a point. I understand what they are trying to say, and it comes from a place of good intention. However, we need to recognize our differences. We need to rejoice in our differences. America is stronger for our all of our differences brought together, and we need to accept that and go out of our way to stand up against racism when we see it. To be anti-racist means to take an active stance of “I am not going to tolerate that in my presence!”
Fourth, she explains the difference between being non-racist and being anti-racist. She speaks about the importance of seeing the fact that America is made up of people who are different, and that anti-racism requires us to not only see color but to actively confront racism.
Many times, when the subject of white privilege is brought up it leads to defensiveness and then frustration at defensiveness. In her book, White Fragility, Robin Di Angelo describes how discussions about racism are often met with the statement, “I don’t see color.” She talks about how this statement is false and denies reality in America, but she also discusses how this statement ultimately shuts down conversations about race and racism and does not allow growth to occur. She talks about how this reaction stems from the discomfort many white people hear when presented with information about white privilege.
What I like about Mrs. Bro’s testimony is that she demonstrates why it isn’t necessary to feel discomfort and avoid the subject. Talking about privilege isn’t about passing blame. The point is to recognize it, learn about it, and teach about it so that we can start to break down some of our own biases — we ALL have them — and work together in a beautifully diverse country.
This is a wonderful example of how privilege can be used to fight for change. The simple acts of recognizing it, learning about it, and using it to call for change are what will make real change happen.
Furthermore, the way in which she is continuing the fight that her daughter believed in before she was murdered in Charlottesville, is deeply moving.