async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: We Need to Talk

Friday, June 5, 2020

We Need to Talk

We need to talk. Let's pour the coffee and sit down. I've got Dunkin Donuts, which is currently my favorite blend. A little splash of half and half and I'm good. How about you?

A lot has happened since our last coffee date, both personally and in the world around us. I thought April was the longest month ever, but May got competitive. And June looks to be ramping up as well.



If we were having coffee, we'd be having a very serious conversation right now. The original post that I intended to publish has been scrapped. As much as I love to share some humorous anecdotes, now is not the time.

It's hard to know if publishing a coffee talk post--or any kind of post, for that matter--is the right thing to do in light of what is happening in our world. I hope all of my readers know that by publishing this post, I am not changing my focus as a running blog. But I want to address current events because it is affecting me deeply. I want to do the right thing. As a white person, I just don't know what that is.

But I do need to talk about it. If I can't do anything else, I can use this space for good and spread the word that black lives do matter.

If we were having coffee, I'd have to talk about the protests and the riots. With one son in Madison and one in Chicago, I worry for their safety, but part of me is glad that they get to experience this. It's so important. While I was too young to remember much about the protests in the 1960, I talked about them with my mom. As she reflected, she told me that in spite of all that went on back then, nothing has changed. The fact that 50+ years later, we are still seeing such rampant racism is truly heartbreaking. I can only hope for things to get better.

I love that people are getting fired up about what happened to George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor and so many others. What I don't love are the opportunists, the looters, and the vandals, whose senseless actions are making it hard to see the message the protesters are trying to impart. Even more, I find it troubling that the news broadcasts seems to focus more on the destruction rather than the message.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that one of the hardest things for me during this time is learning about the beliefs held by some of the people in my life. I guess I'd have to say that I'm not surprised by what I've learned, but I am broken-hearted. Do I end a friendship of over 40 years because of a racist post shared on Facebook? Do I cut off acquaintances who have been expressing derogatory comments about people of color?

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that as a nurse for over 35 years and a pediatric nurse practitioner for 12 of those years, I have been fortunate to work with a group of professionals of very diverse ethnicities. I can't speak for everyone in healthcare but throughout my career, my colleagues and I have worked together to provide excellent, unbiased care to all our patients. I've never seen any of my partners make decisions based on a child's skin color or religion.

One of the first families that entrusted their children to me as a new nurse practitioner working at an FQHC (federally qualified health center) was an African American family whose mother intially was very confrontational and demanding. During that initial visit, I thought to myself, how sad is it that this mother's past experiences with healthcare providers made her feel that she needed to act that way to get what she needed for her family? Over time, we developed a mutually respectful relationship that led to me caring for her extended family as well, which continues to this day.

If we were having coffee, I'd talk about the book that I have been reading. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo was recommended to me by a friend, who is black, after I asked her what I could do. She provided me with suggestions and resources. This book was one of them. DiAngelo, a white sociologist, calls the defensiveness that white people exhibit when their racial biases are challenged 'white fragility'. She isn't talking about blatant racism, but the subtle biases that are ingrained in so many of us, biases that you might not even be aware of. I'm looking forward to reading more and becoming more aware of how my thoughts and actions may be affecting individuals of color. 

If we were having coffee, I'd recommend the movie Just Mercy, which is streaming for free on Amazon prime all month. While I have to admit that Michael B Jordan is pretty easy on the eyes, he is also an incredible actor. Along with Jamie Foxx, they tell an unbelieveable true story about blatant racism in the prison system and fighting back to change it. Wow. Just Wow.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my hope is that after the riots and the protests stop and we move forward, that the story of racism and police brutality in the US doesn't get swept under the rug again. Let's keep it at the forefront, let's keep talking, and take what we have learned to make things better. Vote.

Maybe I'm saying it all wrong here. I sure hope I'm not making anyone uncomfortable. But we really need to talk. Please share your thoughts. Tell me what I can do. Let's keep the conversation going.

I'm linking up with Deborah and Coco for the Ultimate Coffee Date and with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.



62 comments :

  1. Tough times for sure. In his sermon last weekend Bishop Curry noted how his father, also a priest, was a liaison for race relations in Philly in the 60s, and how little has changed ... When you see overt racism from people you know, you realize how real the problem is. As a lawyer, I cringe remember how the Supreme Court declared we were in a “post-racial” society years ago — do they regret those words and the precedent they set? ~ sigh~

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  2. I don't know the answer or the "right" things to say either. I am heartbroken. I am grateful for wonderful friends of all colors. I spent years tutoring in Cabrini Green. I continue to work with Streetwise. With BOMF. I lead by example and teach my kids about racism. Still it's not enough. Like you, I'm all for peaceful protest but the rioting has clouded the message, not the mention the media seems to be hellbent on reporting opinions vs objective news we can formulate our own opinions from.

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    1. I'm really disappointed in the most of the media. We've always known the chase for ratings but I've ever seen more irresponsible reporting than in current times.

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  3. No, this is well said Wendy.
    I think our entire country is on the same page when is comes to what happened to Mr. Floyd. It was just plain wrong! But what I am also disgusted with is the news media claiming that all these protests are peaceful! No, burning churches, and destroying grocery stores is NOT peaceful yet they don't seem to acknowledge that is happening.

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    1. The news here is focusing on the destruction more than the peaceful protests.

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  4. it has been a very sad and disturbing few weeks for our country. I am all for peaceful protests and everyone having a right to express their opinions. I am heartbroken over what I've seen happen to our cities this week. I am afraid peaceful messages for hope and change will be lost and what is left is destruction. wish I had some answers

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    1. This has been simmering for a long time. The tipping point was George Floyd's death, which was so horrific that almosst everyone reacted.

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  5. It's true...ugly times bring out the ugly in people. While I respect everyone's opinions, even if they are the polar opposite of mine, I do not respect name-calling and rudeness. A good thing with these tough times, though, is the opportunity for great table talk with our kids. I agree with Marcia, the media is really attempting to sway everyone's perception of what's really happening.

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    1. I don't think Marcia said that the media is trying to sway people's perceptions. What she said is that they aren't posting objective stories. They're chasing ratings.

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  6. We were coffee twining for a while there! I got a pack of DD coffee to tide me over between Trader Joe's visits and half and half is a requirement for coffee. My biggest hope/fear is your last point, that we finally deal with racism and police brutality instead of sweeping them back under the rug when the next news cycle comes along.

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  7. These are sad times and unfortunately the media and esp FB are trying to divide us rather than unite us.

    I am disappointed in people these days. Especially how they judge each other regarding protesting and the pandemic.

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    1. I don't agree that all the media is trying to divide us. We need to stop making generalizations about everything and everyone.

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  8. I'm glad I'm not blogging anymore because honestly, I just can't come up with enough intelligible words to form any kind of post. Thank you for saying what you did. My only hope is that this will be the turning point toward a better world.

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    1. You have no idea how many edits I made to this post! I want to project how I am and how I feel; words can be misconstrued. I just want everyone to care about each other. The country is in a very bad place right now.

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  9. I thank you for this blog post and for opening up a dialogue on a subject that is very uncomfortable to talk about. I have recently ended a friendship over that person's undying loyalty to Trump. I really, REALLY tried to put politics aside since I've known her since high school but comments she made this week in regards to his actions and the protesting completely crossed the line. Was I sad? Yes, but I cannot be friends with someone who uses such horrible rhetoric.

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    1. I am in the very same boat Kim. I can't even talk to her about it. Many years ago we made a pact to agree to disagree on our politics however, she took it too far this week with some FB posts. I can't be a part of that.

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  10. You wrote:

    I sure hope I'm not making anyone uncomfortable

    And that's the only point in your post with which I do not agree. We need to be uncomfortable, deeply soul-wrenchingly uncomfortable. The status quo is as wrong as slavery ever was. Changing that requires fully acknowledging how deep implicit racism goes and that is extremely uncomfortable.

    Otherwise we're going to end up with the useless "thoughts & prayers" response and zero action to make the changes.

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    1. Clearly I was uncomfortable when I wrote that and posted this! But I'm so afraid that once the protests end we will just go back to pretending everything is ok. When it is clearly not.

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  11. You wrote this post so well. I've been trying to write about it all but I am struggling to find the words. I am learning a lot about myself through all of this and I recognize that I have a long way to go with my own process. I started reading "Just Mercy" and I was able to take out "White Fragility" on audiobook from my library. It's so sad to see all the hate in the world that is becoming more obvious than ever right now.

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    1. I think we all have a long way to go--so much of our attitudes and feelings are deeply ingrained. I'm always working to be less judgmental. It's so hard!

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  12. I started reading Gary Sinise's "Grateful American" before this latest round of unrest. He recalled the 1992 LA Riots. Les and I had been married for a little less than a year and lived in the town where the trial for the police officers was held. Sadly, 28 years later nothing seems to have changed. I am like you - wanting to address the issue, wanting to do the right thing, but not knowing what that is.

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    1. I keep thinking about Rodney King asking "Why can't we all just get along?"

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  13. It has absolutely been on my mind. So many things I want to say, but then suddenly it seems like it's #metoo in a whole different way. For now I continue to think, and I really appreciate the resources you pointed out -- I have been looking into what people of color suggest. I find that getting recommendations from people like me seems like #metoo.

    I don't have a diverse circle of friends, though. And I never had diverse circle of coworkers, either. I suppose that's not 100% true, way back when I worked for the government (before I was married) and several of the African Americans there kind of took me under their wing, a second mother if you will.

    OTOH, thankfully, as far as I know my relatives & friends are not at least blatantly racist. I do think my mom is, at least a little. Yes, towards African Americans. Not when she gets to know them, but I think that she's rather quick to label them.

    Well, I could probably go on & on, but again, I'll just thank you for the resources you mentioned.

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    1. I've been fortunate to have worked in a profession where I am around people of all races and colors. I couldn't be good at my job if I was racist. Now people who are rude, that is a different story! LOL

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  14. I appreciate this post and your openness. I'm reading How to be Anti Racist and listening to the 1619 podcast from the NY Times. I'm also diversifying my social media feeds to hear new voices. I love all of the open conversations that I'm having with people in my life. I'm really sad that my mom and her husband are Trump supporters and I haven't called her in weeks (email and text yes) but I just can't risk hearing what she'll say. As for the 40 year friendships, it depends but if they're willing to talk to you and hear your perspective and be respectful then I you may consider the value the connection has to you. If not, I would cut ties. Sending love and thanks for this post.

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    1. I can't talk with her right now. Once things settle down, I will. I'm very upset about what I've been seeing on social media from people in my life.

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  15. Thank you for this thoughtful and well-written post, Wendy. We do sometimes think about more than just running (hard to believe!) :) I have been struggling with the same sadness and anxiety about racist comments made by friends on FB too. In the past, I just rolled my eyes and scrolled past those comments. Now, I feel that if I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I won't get into a protracted discussion with someone spouting hate, but I do make my opinion known. I think by doing that we give permission to others who feel as we do to speak up too. Maybe we can drown out the voices of racism and division. I need to read White Fragility. I have heard good things about it too. I read Just Mercy but did not see the movie. I will have to check to see if I can rent it.

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    1. One of my high school friends called me a 'libtard' back when Obama was president. That was the end of that friendship. I can't even respond to that.

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  16. Fellow Dunkin Donuts drinker here!
    We do need to talk about this - even if it makes some people uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the optimist in me, but I often hope that pushing people out of their comfort zone leads to a conversion of beliefs on topics like race. Thank you for sharing this.
    I have spent the week meditating over a Letter from Birmingham Jail by Dr. King. His audience is not racists but rather the white moderates - those who think they are doing "enough" by not being actively racist on an individual level.
    In our household, we are careful about the selection of media we present our daughter. I try to find books that portray all races and ethnicities. The same will apply when we start picking Barbie dolls. I'm signing petitions, writing to Congress people, and voting. I'm also trying to explain to all the people I know who say that "All Lives Matter" that yes, all lives do matter, and we need to recognize specifically first that Black Lives Matter.

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    1. There have been some really interesting studies done on children and race; babies recognize differences in skin color very early on. I'm attending a virtual pediatric nurse practitioner conference as we speak; this was discussed in one of the sessions I attended.

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  17. Thank you Wendy for this very thoughtful post. Lots of people are struggling with what to say and do and I appreciate that you put yourself out there.

    Isn't it sad what you learn about people at times like this by what they post on social media? There have been a couple for me that have just crossed the line and sadly those relationships are over.

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    1. I'm just really shocked and saddened by some people's response to this. I think they feel justified by what is going on in our government.

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  18. Wendy, I love this post because it echos so much of what I am feeling. I am feeling drained, but I especially do when I read or listen to comments from people in my life. Like you, I am left wondering what next with these friendships, especially when you try to explain certain things in a calm manner and they prefer to be blissfully ignorant or unchanged about the current situation. My hope is that as we move forward, we do not go back to "normal". I think for all the lifestyle changes that came with COVID, I think many people found so many new ways to connect that they did not use before. And now with the focus on race relations, it is time to face this stain in our country's character.

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    1. Isn't it interesting how this all happened at once? I said it with COVID and I'll say it now after George Floyd, we are due for a reset. The focus on greed all at the cost of the poor and disadvanged needs to change. I hope we all keep the conversation going. I feel fortunate to work in my job as a PNP because my contact with patients of all backgrounds keeps me in check with what is happening.

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  19. THANK YOU Wendy!
    I'm trying to get better at conversations w/family & friends who are negative, defensive, or racist. I plan out potential topics of conversation, don't respond to bait, delete threads. I desire kind, neutral conversations, keeping the communication open.
    I also need to move beyond reading & reflecting, and take action. Am I just another not-directly-harmful white person? My passiveness and kind thoughts don't really help, perhaps they just make me feel better.

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    1. I don't have a problem calling people out on their racist comments. I have unfriended many people on FB because of things they've said or posted. It's really appalling. It doesn't feel good to confront people but the guilt I feel when I don't makes me complicit in their racism. I've said it before, but I wouldn't be the good nurse that I pride myself on if I harbored those feelings and thoughts. I can't think that way and I can't be around people who do.

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  20. Hey Wendy! I will keep telling my white friends, acquaintances, and associates the same thing: it WILL be uncomfortable, but saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing. I will tell you why. It puts your comfort level ahead of the black person's feelings. This is part of the problem with white supremacy: it centers whiteness. We have never met IRL, but from the conversations we have had here, in email, and on Insta, I believe that you don't want to keep things the same. SO, saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing, because even if you get it wrong, the people who know you will give you grace and loving "information or correction" if needed. Second, it's interesting that you wonder if you should cut off friends and acquaintances who you have now learned are white supremacists. That is something that I have had to do my whole life: realize that people aren't who you thought they were. I'm not going to tell you to cut them off.....maybe they can be educated. For me, I don't have the time, patience, and energy to convince someone that I am human and that they should see me that way. Now, many of those people don't think of themselves that way, but they also don't want to do the work to make change, and let's be completely honest. If you are at the top, do you *really* want to make things equitable for those below you? Most people say they want change, but when faced with putting that into action/making hard decisions/calling people out, they shy away. I'm not here to condemn anyone. I'm human just like everyone else. I just need everyone to start realizing the truth of what's happening, and not expect ME to comfort and coddle YOU because NOW you know that black people aren't just lazy or naturally inferior. We have been traumatized for 400 years. It's never been equal here. Having *leaders* tell you that you are right to be angry b/c you are "losing" to black and brown people (which isn't true, btw) has done nothing but make this worse. I shouldn't have to fear and have a plan for if I'm ever pulled over by a police officer (but I do). I shouldn't choose not to go home to SC from GA to visit my aging grandmother because I don't want to be stopped on my own along a quiet highway/town. Can any white person imagine that? That is my life. I hope that people listen to the pain--that's what the protestors are doing--finally showing our shared pain. THAT'S what the news needs to report, and it seems like they have been doing a better job lately. This is just a conversation that needs to continue, because trust me, it has never and will never stop in black households. Even when the next *big thing* comes along to grab everyone's attention, black mothers and fathers will still have to teach their sons and daughters about this country. Thanks for reading my long response. I didn't read any other responses to this post, so I don't know if I stated something already said. I'm just commenting based on MY experiences. Take care!

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    1. I am so glad you read this and you shared what you are feeling. This is what I hoped to hear. I can't imagine what it is like to live with the fear that you'll be judged or harmed because of your skin color. I wish I could make it better. I will do my best to keep the conversation going and to defeat the negative messages coming out of the White House. <3

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  21. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I plan to read that book and Just Mercy is on the watch list for this weekend. Another super good read (although very hard) is The Son will Shine Again.

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    1. I will look for that book! Thank you for the recommendation!

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  22. Thank you Wendy for sharing! We plan to Watch Just Mercy this weekend as a family. And i just got the book “so you want to talk about race” which my friend said was excellent. Speaking of friends and family...There are “friends” i have deleted from Facebook because not matter what I say or tell them they will never listen. I am with my friends i truely want in my life and care for...i have having thought tough conversations. I know it is not going to be easy and they might decide to drop me and that would be ok because at least i would know that I spoke up and called them out and maybe one they will see that they are wrong and remember me. (Runningkelly)

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    1. I feel exactly as you do. What is amazing to me is that the majority of the friends from my childhood are the very ones who are posting the terrible comments. I grew up with these people! What happened? Oh, they stayed in my hometown. I sure wasn't raised like that.

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  23. Ugh sorry for the typos and misspellings!

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  24. Thank you for this. Sometimes, it's good to just keep giving voice to the issues, even if it's out of our lane. I watched Just Mercy last night, and I started 13th. I want to watch Selma as well.

    My husband and I are having some good conversations about prison labor and that whole industry - it's something I knew nothing about. I'm also making myself available to friends who never voted before or who want to change how they vote, so that they feel supported at the polls. It has never been more important.

    <3 to you.

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    1. Is it out of our lane? I think we need to pay special attention to our message. I'm so glad this is happening right now!

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  25. I'm definitely with you there. I'm sad that nothing seems to have changed and that opportunists are hijacking this cause. I'm having the same problem as you with friends/acquaintances that I thought better of--I truly cannot wrap my mind around the disconnect of the person they are to me versus the person that they support. It's been so, so disheartening. I'm glad that my workplace is super diverse and supportive though (as it should be)!

    I'm planning to watch Just Mercy this weekend!

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  26. Thank you for this post! I read all the comments, too. It's really an eye-openener for me and helps me to understand what's going on in the US better.
    I hope this will be the chapter in history where things change for the better.
    Keep up the good work, Wendy! It takes people like you and all the commenters here!

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    1. I can only imagine what people across the globe are thinking of the situation in the US right now. Just know that many of us are trying to make things better.

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  27. Thank you for sharing this. I've been shocked by two friends who have pursued the "All Lives Matter" thing but fortunately others have educated them before I've had to. But what does one do? I've got White Fragility on my wishlist but have "Why I've Stopped Talking to White People About Race" and "The Good Immigrant UK" ready to go and just read "Don't Touch My Hair" which taught me a lot. Personally I've given to two charities providing bail to black people in the US (one women, one in Birmingham, AL) and to Black Lives Matter UK, dedicated my photos a day to showing the memorials to Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd that we have here, set up a scheme to have two friends publish reviews of the books around anti-racism they read in June and July on my blog to spread the word, friended the woman running the Birmingham fund and reached out to a black client who does good things locally to see how I can help, fund and amplify his cause. Not virtue-signalling, just sharing a few things one can do.

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    1. You're doing more than I have and certainly more than most people! Thank you for all you're doing.

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  28. I love drink coffee, two or three times a day....drink while reading.
    Your thoughts are wonderful, I read twice to make me better understanding. My feeling with you.

    Have a great day.

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  29. Beautifully said. For me the friend line is harder, but acquaintances to share vile things? They can go kick rocks. I don't need that in my feed. I just had a conversation with a social group that has gone quiet due to us realizing we didn't have that much in common and being unable to politely discuss current events. Even if I agree with you, the caps and the name calling need to stop.
    White Fragility was such a good read. Going to FB message you a flyer that's up in my neighborhood with some other great resources.

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  30. You know I love this Wendy and I'm so glad you're sharing it and spreading GOOD information and intelligent thoughts and reflections. I have read White Fragility and it's a great place for white people to check themselves. We're not talking about overt racism but racism is sneaky and can be much smaller, which DiAngelo has a great way of pointing out. I also saw Just Mercy and, although it was infuriating at times, it was a great movie. As you know, I just finished my first year of grad school pursuing a license in clinical mental health counseling so I can advocate and education and continue to work for social justice on the inside :-) Great work!

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    1. Thanks Allie, for reading and for organizing the group of bloggers to use our platforms for good. Let's keep talking!

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