Letter: Using our privilege to work towards equality

Posted 11/15/20

To the editor:

Over the past few months, while witnessing local Black Lives Matter protests and long-overdue conversations about race, I’ve observed that much of the debate surrounds public …

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Letter: Using our privilege to work towards equality

Posted

To the editor:

Over the past few months, while witnessing local Black Lives Matter protests and long-overdue conversations about race, I’ve observed that much of the debate surrounds public actions that have minimal impact: flying a BLM flag, adding a medallion to an already existing monument, or removing “Plantations” from Rhode Island’s name. These are promising first steps towards progress, but true equity is still far off. The (many rich, white) people of Barrington should be focused on how to use our privilege to tangibly support the Black community.

We may not be proud of it, but America was built on racism: even Rhode Island played a significant role in maintaining the slave trade, and the actions of our ancestors still have effects on the world today. Dr. I Kawasaki, a Harvard social epidemiologist, recently found that income inequality is linked to residential segregation. Barrington ranks as the wealthiest town in Rhode Island by median household income, and many residents benefit from the black-white wealth gap. Knowing this, it’s clear that increasing diversity in the town’s population is difficult because marginalized groups can’t afford the high home prices and property taxes.

Even if we don’t realize it, Barrington’s got it pretty good: a great school system, waterfront views, etc.. But our privileges come from oppressive systems- particularly white privilege. Most white people get through life without their race making it any harder, and that’s often not the case for people of color. It’s not something to feel ashamed or guilty for, but upon recognizing this, we have a duty to give back- not for the sake of making ourselves feel better about continuing to benefit from the oppressive systems, but to use our privilege to work towards equality.

So how do we undo the effects of racism? There’s no bringing back the black lives lost. At this point, we need to look outside pre-existing systems for aid when trying to remedy a problem that’s ingrained in the systems themselves. Plenty of past letters to the editor have demonstrated that we have community members that don’t understand the stakes. For those who already believe Black Lives Matter and support the movement, start having the uncomfortable conversations (if you think an unproductive screaming match can be avoided).

We can redistribute Barrington’s collective wealth by donating to or volunteering with anti-racist organizations such as Black Lives Matter or the RI chapter of the ACLU. Consider supporting local mutual aid funds found at risolidarityfund.org: these are peer to peer financial support systems focused on individuals’ immediate needs that institutions have failed to meet, and have been particularly effective during Covid-19. I encourage you to dedicate time and/or money to organizations, and that could start with visiting blacklivesmatter.com, aclu.org, naacpprov.org, or ri-bba.org. I believe in the kindness of the people of Barrington, and I hope that we can take this opportunity to continue to grow into a more responsible and caring community.

Neha Basu

Barrington

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