Thoughts on Racism from Rural America

If you think racism doesn’t impact your life, think again.

I recently moved back to rural Kansas after 15+ years living in much much bigger cities (Chicago and Denver). And being out here while all of these protests are going on has got me feeling a mixed bag of emotions–sadness, anger, rage, grief, regret, etc. And I keep thinking, what can I do? How can I help? 

Then I think about where I am. 

I think about who I am. 

I’m in the middle of nowhere Kansas somewhere in between Kansas City and Tulsa on the Missouri border. A place with a rich civil war history, a place known to have been at the forefront for fighting to be a free state, John Brown, massacres, bloody Kansas etc. it all happened right around here. Cities were burned. People were murdered for having one belief or the other. It was brutal. It was chaotic. 

All in the name of freedom. 

But now? Now I think about how so many of us are afraid. There can be no other explanation. We’re afraid to stand up for what’s right. 

We’re afraid to do even the smallest action, to put a Black Lives Matter sign up in our window, or to call out the racism on our Facebook newsfeed, or invite our black friends to come visit.   

Why? Because we know that makes us a target for violence. It makes us a target for being ostracized, pushed out, abandoned by our ‘people’ aka our family, our community. And though, theoretically we understand that these racist types are ‘not our people’ …  they also are? 

So instead of saying something or doing anything we find ourselves becoming apathetic, avoiding these issues, remaining apolitical for the state of surviving where we are. Minimizing what’s happening or going so far as to blame the victims themselves. 

I think back on why I left, why I moved out of this small town, and it’s because I didn’t feel like I belonged. Of course, I looked like I belonged with my white skin and my german nose and my dirty blonde hair, but I didn’t feel like I belonged because I had different thoughts on how I wanted to live my life, who I wanted to be, ways and desires that didn’t fit within the mold the town has constructed for its people.  

To pretend this construction isn’t a reality for folks in this community is dangerous. It’s dangerous because it strips individuals of their freedom. Turning people away because they don’t fit within your own mold creates fear. Confusion. Anger. Uncertainty. 

If freedom is what so many people believe in then why do we let so much happen that goes against that very idea? Shouldn’t everyone have the freedom to choose where they live, what they believe, who they love– even if it doesn’t align with your own ideas of what that looks like? Isn’t that what our ancestors fought for when they fought for Kansas to be a free state? A fight for a united America–where everyone, regardless of their color of skin would have the right to empower or fuck up their own lives however they saw fit? 

We cannot continue to ignore what is happening because it happens each and every day in our own backyards.

Your silence will not save you and it damn well won’t save our friends, family, loved ones, lovers, children and neighbors. 

What can we do?

Here are a few suggestions that might help you as you continue on the path toward justice, freedom, and equality–wherever you happen to be. 

Little Tips for Big Anti-Racist Action

Turn Toward Your Feelings Not Away From Them.

This stuff hurts. This stuff is heavy. But instead of running, deflecting, numbing, avoiding, we must turn inward. Stop. Sit. Examine what is coming up. Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Where does it stem from? What does it feel like within your body? Where is it located? What is the texture. Can you sit with it fully? Do that. Feel all of it.  

Kill Your Ego

When we come from a place we’re we can listen without judgement we are better equipped to handle the chaos. Note that not every experience is specifically about you. If something provokes you this can often be a reflection of your own beliefs, issues, trauma, and that needs to be examined (see above suggestion on turning inward). Perhaps you have guilt about your part in all of this, that is valid, that is not uncommon, that is to be expected.

When you kill your ego you kill the part of yourself that lives from fear and fear is what works to perpetuate all of this bullshit and keeps everyone from truly living freely. Fear is what keeps us from doing the right thing and choosing the comfortable thing instead.  

Choose Compassion

We only know the depths of our own experiences. For the most part we do not know the full history, experiences, nuances of any one else’s lives (not even the Kardashians!). If people are running around being racist, how can you confront them in a productive way? If you are struggling you can always ask yourself WWJD or apply the golden rule.

Think about the times that you’ve changed your opinion of a matter, did it happen because someone was screaming at you and calling you names or did it happen because you were able to have an open and honest conversation?

If ever unsure, ask questions. Note that you might not get the response you were hoping for, know that all is not lost. Also remember that if you’re talking through these issues on an open social media platform that you’re saying the words you are saying to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people, so you may make a positive impact on someone and never even know it. 

Dive Deeper Into Our History

Race is a social construct.  White people weren’t always white. Working class white people have more in common with people of color than they do their corporate bosses. Ask yourself why, who does this divisiveness ultimately serve? There are SO many resources out there that will aid in your discovery.

Here are a few links:

Beyond The Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action In Your Own Life

75 Things White People Can Do For Social Justice

Anti-Racism Resources

Be Kind to Yourself

Take care of yourself. Take breaks when you can. If you happen to be in a rural community like I am, know that there are other people who feel the same way. You are not alone. 

You are beautiful. 

You are loved. 

Leave a Reply