Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide actionable solutions between white and black people. It is meant to be apolitical; in fact, I am so disgusted with the perverse lack of leadership from our politicians that I am writing to you, the American people. Please hear my cry for help to make a way even when it looks like there is no way. I would not say I like division. I am not too fond of RACISM; in fact, I hate RACISM. I hate that we are killing ourselves as a country from the inside out. We must come together and act now! May God have mercy on us all!
History is No Mystery
“We are living in traumatic times, fighting two deadly viruses – COVID-19 and RACISM 2020. One is less than one year old and attacks the body; the other is older than America and destroys the mind, body, and soul.” –Arnold X.C. Perkins
I am the oldest son of a single-parent housekeeper who grew up in the South. My last name: Luffborough (Original Surname: Loughborough) is my ancestors’ slave master’s name and the slave name passed down to identify slaves by their plantation owners during times of slavery. I am 63% Sub-Saharan African (primarily West African) and 37% European (primarily British and Irish). In England, there is a town and university with my last name – Loughborough.
Fact: Physical slavery started in America as early as 1619 and ended on paper through the Emancipation Proclamation and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. African-Americans have been slaves in America for 246 years but lived “free” in this country for only 155 years. I say “free” because despite the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we still have had to fight through lynching, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and – even today – fight to live free enough that innocently jogging on the street wouldn’t kill you (Ahmaud Arbery); sleeping peacefully in your own bed wouldn’t kill you (Breonna Taylor); just wanting to BREATHE wouldn’t kill you (George Floyd). Although the physical chains have been taken off, the psychological shackles of slavery still permeate the minds of white and black America in 2020.
Exhale. I grew up being told by my mother that because I was black, and a male, I had a target on my back. I was told that because I was black, I would have to work twice as hard as my white counterparts for a lesser position and that I needed to dress the part and not do anything to bring attention to myself. I grew up with racism, and like many black males just suppressed it all my life or dealt with the pain and rage in private. I cannot, and I will not do that anymore. I must turn that rage into a laser-like focus of purpose towards justice and equality for communities of color.
One vivid memory of racism was in elementary school when I wanted to play with one of my white classmates at his house after school. I remember his mother staring at me with a look of disgust as she answered the door. She told me that her son was not allowed to play with me anymore and slammed the door in my face. Then, just a few years ago, when I in my mid-forties and my wife were looking at homes in the community we already lived in, the realtor stopped me at the doorway and dared to ask me if I had a job.
My Life Matters
On May 25th, 2020, things changed for millions of black people around the world and me. My wife and children watched for eight minutes and forty-eight seconds as the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer silently killed a 46-year old African-American man in front of the entire world. On that day, not only did George Floyd die and leave this earth but also the reality of death flashed before the eyes of every black person in this country, perhaps even the world. I have lived my entire life with a white person’s foot on my neck, metaphorically. I am sick and tired of it, and I refuse to fight for air any longer. I am taking a stand. I am fighting back for what is right.
With the weight of multi-generations of oppression around my neck and the helpless feeling of having my hands tied behind my back, I identify with a different kind of hurt – a deep wounded sorrow. I understand the rage. I get the feeling of hopelessness, and yet, this time is different. I was acutely saddened to have to explain “The Talk” to my four children, that they live in a white world, and that I had to pass down the same stories of survival my mother told me when I was their age.
Then, I received phone calls from some of the white friends I grew up and worked with, and some from college, experiencing what they called white guilt and what I called an acknowledgment of their white privilege of living life through color-blind sunglasses. I witnessed educational institutions, professional sports organizations, and corporations putting out one-page manifestos on their commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. But perhaps the most inspiring thing I saw were non-black faces around the world acknowledging what some of the top white leaders in our country could not even say – black lives do matter. My life matters. The biggest questions I received from white people throughout my circle of influence were “what can we do” and “where do we go from here?”
Growing up in poverty and homelessness during my senior year in high school, I found that getting into college was a game-changer. The first thing I realized was that my college campus and college life were remarkably different from the home environment in which I grew up. Until then, I did not even know I could experience a different type of life from the one in which I was raised.
My undergraduate experience inspired me to pursue my master’s degree at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. My advisor was Dr. Charles Willie, a well-known African-American professor who went to college with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I took several classes from Dr. Willie, and one theory I learned in his class that could help our current racial divide is called Double Victory. His formula was: Double Consciousness (thinking from another culture’s perspective) + Double Culture (understanding the way other cultures live their lives) = Double Victory.
The basis of the theory is the importance that black people and white people experience what Dr. Willie would call a Double Consciousness with one another and a Double Culture experience with one another. This leads to a Double Victory of valuing and appreciating what each ethnic group brings to the table and allows each to have a genuine appreciation for the other. A Double Victory can occur only when each race embraces a different way of thinking and living with someone from another race. Embracing this duality is what makes the difference. Being able to show empathy, understand what others believe in, and share values centered on mutual respect are the first places to start.
What Only White America Can Do
Unlike any other time in our history, not just black people are concerned about the injustices, inequities, and blatant racism that still exists in this country. Many white people are upset as well and want to know what they can do. At first, as a black man, I was at a loss for words. Not because I did not have a response, but because I never thought a white person would ever ask me such questions.
Many prominent white corporations have come out and shared their point of view on racial injustice, but living out what is written on paper over the next ten to twenty years and beyond is a different reality altogether. From my perspective, here is what I believe only white America must do.
● Acknowledge That Black Lives do Matter: Say it. Teach it to your children. Take your eyes off yourself just for one moment to recognize how black people came to this country. Honor the sacrifices made, the dignity stripped away, and the blood, sweat, and tears black Americans have endured in building up your America. It starts first by acknowledging you were wrong and then by having empathy for others from different races who still struggle to be seen in society.
● Open Up Your Circles of Influence: A Double Victory can be achieved only when black people are invited to the proverbial white dinner table of power, influence, and change as equals and not as inferior human beings. One example was when my brother and I attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a white professor wrote a prompt on the board that said, “How can we fix urban education?” As I looked around the room, I noticed that everyone in the class was white; my brother and I were the only black folks in the room. To “fix” urban education, you need the voices and faces from the urban context. What the professor failed to recognize or acknowledge was that the answer was staring him right in the face, but so often we are not asked for our input on matters that concern our own lives – black lives. What opportunities do you have that you can open up for more black people? Invite us into your educational, social, professional, and family circles. Make an effort!
● Use Your Voice and Refuse to Stay Silent: When you see or hear black people being discriminated against, mistreated, or being talked down to speak up on their behalf. Again, show empathy towards us. Use the same compassion you would have for your son or daughter, mother, or father. The issues of race in America will never be solved or made better with you and your other white friends as silent observers sitting on the sidelines. Say something; do something! Confront conflict with empathy, dignity, and respect. Avoid physical confrontations at all costs.
● Commit to Lifelong Change: The adage applies, that Rome was not built in a day. Another is, how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time. That is how change starts. But change needs to start now, and we must ramp up rapidly. We are running out of time. The thick concrete walls of oppression, racism, inequality, and hatred need to be demolished once and for all. If just one white person takes a stand and makes a daily commitment to chip away at this wall and enroll their family and friends, it will create a ripple effect. We cannot wait for change: We need to be the change.
What Only Black America Can Do
It takes two to bring healing and reconciliation in any relationship; black America can help white America change by taking ownership of a few things as well – and it starts at home. Below are some things that black America must do.
● Live Forgiveness: Healing starts by acknowledging the hurt and pain and allowing yourself to grieve and then move forward. You can see the hurt and pain in the faces of black people who once had a dream. Forgiveness brings back hope and power in your life. We need to remember the past but also stay fervently loyal to our preferred future. What happened in the past will not change what can happen right now.
● Eliminate a Poverty Mentality: We do not need a handout – we should be looking for a hand-up. Stop waiting for others to do what we have the God-given potential to do for ourselves. For so many years growing up, I lived my life with limited beliefs about myself and what is possible. I stifled my growth in what I could become because I felt that because I was black, it was not possible. Take advantage of the opportunities in front of you and do not expect others to help you. Do it yourself. Do it despite racism.
● Mind Your Manners: The power of home training – a form of personal and social etiquette on how to carry ourselves – makes all the difference in the world. Our dispositions get us in the door, but how we act when we arrive determines how much further we can go. Learning and being able to socially code-switch (Double Consciousness plus Double Culture) based on the community we are in creates a Double Victory. When we do not teach our children home training or devalue the importance of learning how to master social code-switching, we disqualify ourselves and are not considered for positions or opportunities that can support the social and economic futures of our families. We often hear you are just not the right fit or you are not what we are looking for responses. One example: my mother raised me to be able to go into any community and fit in. This is not only taught, but it is also caught by observing and assimilating to different environments and the way people live their lives. I had to act differently at Harvard from when I, as a homeless teen, lived on the streets. I had to master the art of social code-switching to get to where I am today, and I did not learn this at school or in corporate America. I learned it at home.
● The Pursuit of Excellence: Strive to be your very, very best! Systemic racism cannot be eradicated unless we kill the root cause. Continue your education, change your major if you have to but pursue industries and careers that can help turn the tide of hate, oppression, and superiority. Go back to school for your advanced degree or better yet start your own business and teach the next generation of black children how to fish for themselves. Remain relentless day in and day out. We cannot stop until the job of racial equity is attained at all costs. To go to the places you know you have been destined to go, you have to be willing to do what others refuse to do. Excellence starts with you. The distinction is not an accident but years of work no one ever sees.
A Spiritual Issue
“These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” -Proverbs 6:16-19
What we have been going through for most of my life is not just a white or a black issue; it is a heart issue – a spiritual issue. Creating new policies is good, but it is not enough to help us get there. Defunding the police may sound good, but it is not enough to help us get there. We can continue to tear down Confederate statues, but if the hearts of those in power stay as hard as the figures we just tore down, where does that leave us? I have heard many others talk about a reckoning coming, and I believe that to be the case.
You do not need to be a biblical scholar or have the title of Pastor to see that God is up to something. What we are going through throughout the world is of biblical proportions. The Plagues over Egypt are mentioned in the books of Exodus and Revelations, both of which talk about the result of sin and the end of times. The COVID-19 and racism pandemics are a sign from God to turn to Him. One scripture that comes to mind is 2 Chronicles 7:14: If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
What we are going through today cannot be fixed by the traditional methods of problem-solving we have used in the past. What we need is a supernatural spiritual awakening of forgiveness, mercy, and grace for one another rooted in humility, justice, and love.
I believe everyone needs to take a stand and a position on racial inequity because black lives do matter. My commitment is to unapologetically work with school districts and corporations to promote equity and inclusion through culturally responsive practices throughout all areas within their organizations. It starts at the top with School Superintendents and Corporate CEOs refusing to turn a blind eye and declaring enough is enough. Our politicians and other leaders in Washington have lost the public trust to do what is right and just regarding racism. It will never happen at that level and must start from within our circles of influence.
It is time for white people and people of color to join hands together to create a new America, one free of racism, oppression, and hatred. I want to live in an America where we all belong and are celebrated as one, and not just tolerated because of our differences. It is time for us to go all-in… Are you with me?
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America Summary & Study Guide Description, by Michael Eric Dyson (2017)
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin Diangelo (2018)
How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, by Christopher Emdin (2017)
The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care?, by Ellis Cose (1994)
The Third Option, by Miles McPherson (2018)
ColorFull, by Dorena Williamson (for children) (2018)
When God Made You, by Matthew Paul Turner (for children) (2017)
Body Language: A Conversation on Race and Restoration in the Body of Christ, YouTube video with Christine Caine and Dr. Anita Phillips (2020)
Dr. Doug Luffborough, III, Ph.D. is an Educational Partner with Higher Level Leadership, a K-16 diversity, equity, and inclusion firm. He is the author of “Watch Me Rise: From the Streets of Despair to the Halls of the Ivy League” and the “Watch Me Rise Dialogue Guidebook.” Dr. Luff is also a former California school board trustee and an adjunct professor in education. For more information, you can contact Dr. Luff at dougluff.com.