Risha Talks: A question for white people: Is this the America you want? | Risha Grant

When it comes to race and other diversity issues, I am paid to help people understand one another. I still maintain that we don’t have diversity problems — we have people problems, but I’m ready to admit that I’m at a loss.

The Tulsa World has many print subscription readers who are older, white and male. I’ve received many emails from some of these readers saying I have helped them to think differently about race issues through my column. Those emails have truly made this experience worth it, and some days, I even feel like we are closing the gap.

But not today.

Today, I need white people to help me understand: Is this the America you want? Are you truly proud of it and where we are headed?

I’m asking white people because I know the answer from others, and the truth is you run the world. And, quite frankly, I’m disgusted, tired, hurt and infuriated with the BS!

In the past few months, an assailant rained down bullets from an assault rifle on a Jewish synagogue, killing 11 people. In Kentucky, two black people were shot at a Kroger store as the gunman yelled racial epithets. In California, 12 people, mainly college students, were gunned down in a country and western bar. In Wisconsin, a group of teens held up the Nazi sign as they posed for a picture. In Texas, a group of teens recorded a video repeating the N-word. In a massive act of cowardice, pipe bombs were sent to former President Barack Obama and other political leaders.

The FBI released a report that says hate crimes are up 17 percent for the third year in a row. The report also states that most of the hate crimes committed were motivated by race or ethnicity — of which nearly half of the victims were black. There was also a spike in anti-Semitic attacks, with 900 reports of crimes targeting Jewish people and institutions.

The Department of Justice has said reducing violent crimes is its top priority and that hate crimes are violent crimes as well as “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”

While I desperately want to believe that these horrendous injustices against humankind are just “despicable violations of our core values,” for many people of color, Jews, Muslims and LGBTQ+ people, it’s simply our unfortunate reality.

The severity of the crimes is seemingly worse, but the people mentioned above have lived with this fear and talked of it my entire life. They experience severe injustices constantly.

We must face the raw truth: This is America! This has always been America.

Just as the invention of television brought the atrocities of the civil rights movement to mainstream consciousness, social media, cellphone cameras and 24-hour news cycles are allowing us to witness in real time the truths we merely heard about previously.

But here is another raw truth it is time to face: We can no longer deny inequities by acting as if they don’t exist, are new or can be remedied with hollow promises. It is time for action.

White people, stand up! Be a voice for the voiceless. You cannot continue to allow the level of hatred, incivility and hateful public discourse to continue. America is suffering.

I often think about a commercial I saw last year. The guy in the commercial basically says, “I always intended to donate to cancer research but never got around to it. Now I have cancer, and I am asking you to donate to help find a cure for this disease that is affecting so many people.”

The commercial made me wonder why we wait until tragedies affect us personally to do something. Do we not have enough compassion to help our neighbors simply because they are hurting? Do we not realize that what affects the least of us will eventually affect all of us? We are witnessing in the 21st century, in real time, the least among us still being treated inhumanely.

I am at a loss, but I am not lost. It is OK to feel helpless, but we cannot lose hope. I still believe people are inherently good, but we must stand against those who are bad. I still believe people care, but we must show we care even when we don’t want to. I still believe we can disagree, but we respectfully agree to disagree.

I still believe in America, but we must fight for an America that is undeniably just.

Please email me your thoughts at risha@rishagrant.com. It will take all of us to figure this out.