"I didn’t know it at the time, but my equity journey began in 1973 as I entered the 7th grade. I lived in Charlotte, NC during the period of school desegregation and was bused from my white suburban neighborhood to Northwest Junior High in a black neighborhood. Attending Northwest provided experiences I had not anticipated, including being bullied. It gave me a small glimpse into what it feels like to be treated differently because of the color of your skin.
Then some 40 years later, I learned what it meant to be a privileged white male. During a diversity training at work, I participated in the “privilege” walk. At the end of the exercise, I was in the front, by myself, a privileged person, while my “bestie” was in the very back. One of my work “besties,” a black female, had experienced hunger, fear of answering her own front door at home, and being questioned by police for no other reason than being black.
Since that time, I have been learning what systemic racism is and the impacts it has had on persons of color. Over the years, I came to blame old white men for all of society's ills. Now that I am one, I blame older white men, but I also realize that we all have a role to play in ending systemic racism. Believe me, I get it. It’s not something I did specifically or perhaps you did – it’s all about having control. As our country came out from under the sin of slavery, white men had all the wealth and control of government. They put policies and laws into place that resulted in marginalizing and suppressing black people. Other people of color and even poor white people were also caught up in the fray.
Slavery legally ended in 1865, over 150 years ago. Fast forward to May 25, 2020, when the world witnessed the death of George Floyd. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds we watched a Minneapolis police officer, sworn to serve and protect, with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. He was not the first black man, or woman, to die at the hands of police officers. I do not condemn all law enforcement officers, but the murder of George Floyd changed me – I could no longer sit passively on the sidelines. I started with a Facebook post about systemic racism and attended a Black Lives Matter rally. But I needed to do more.
I am Mark Kirstner, the founder of White Voices Against Racism. White Voices is committed to sharing information and providing education to help end systemic racism. We use simple messaging, short videos, resource sharing, activities and group outings as our tools and provide a space for learning and engagement. We welcome all who want to learn and engage in a healthy and meaningful way to improve the lives of all. Ending systemic racism will take leadership and support from all people. It will take sacrifice and changes in attitudes and to laws and policies. I ask you to search your heart and join our journey to learn what systemic racism is and how to end it.”