Last weekend when I wrote this weekly blog, I was naive. I thought that racism didn't "really" exist in the bubble that I spoke of - my bubble including the Bay Area where I grew up, and now specifically the bubble where I live, Marin County. Sadly, that bubble popped this week, and I am embarrassed to have allowed myself to stay ignorant and silent all my life. Why? Just because it was safe. Because it was easier. Because "I didn't want to know." Because it would shatter my belief that people are inherently good. Because it would hurt too much.
None of us can claim innocence anymore. We are all part of the problem.
On Monday, I had to teach my girls the word "racism." Some of you have seen my videos on social media, but if not, I made a Black Lives Matter poster with my little one, and I decided to share more details about George Floyd's death with my older one. We hung this poster in the front of our house, and I am still hoping for more neighbors, any neighbor, to join us.
On Tuesday, in the neighborhood of Marinwood which is just next to mine, some kids and families were writing "Black Lives Matter" on the sidewalk with chalk. You know, the same sidewalk chalk that all of us used freely when we wrote positive messages for neighbors and friends at the start of shelter-in-place? Yeah, chalk. Well, a man was caught on video crossing the street swearing and cursing all of the families for spreading graffiti in the neighborhood. He used an obscene amount of foul language and was completely out of hand. First of all, let me remind you this is essentially my neighborhood. Secondly, when did chalk art become graffiti?
The positive news? Once word got out, the very next day the neighborhoods gathered at that location on the sidewalk and protested together against hate and bigotry. One of our fellow dancers in today's class, Carissa, described it perfectly:
"I thought it was beautiful how quickly the community came together to show that one man's hateful actions are not okay here. We have a lot of work to do here in Marin, but showing support, speaking up against the hateful remarks and having conversations are a great way to start."
Click here to read the Marin IJ article, although the actual videos (there are two and got taken taken down in the IJ article) are here and here on Facebook. Warning: very explicit language!!!
On Wednesday, YOU helped me to raise $1440 for our donation #StopDropAndDance class. My goal was $500. Then an hour before class it was around $900. When I started class, I checked once again and it jumped $500 in that final hour. Incredible. Thank you to all who shared and posted about the class - Lisa, Sara, Sararose, Katie, Lizzy, Melissa - and Allyson for requesting an All-Black Artists playlist - YES! 100% went to the Black Lives Matter organization which will no doubt be used for action, and it sure felt good to dance together for such an important cause. I am so grateful to ALL OF YOU who donated!!!
This was the song, "Stand Up For Something" by Andra Day and Common, that I choreographed in light of Black Lives Matter, and as usual, the full length dance is up on our Stop Drop And Dance YouTube Channel. But here's a snippet of the dance I did with my girls:
On Thursday, my husband and I watched "Just Mercy" which is a movie made in 2019 that Warner Bros. has offered to stream for free during the month of June on Apple TV. It is based on a true story and is completely relevant to everything we are talking about right now. I highly recommend it, but if you do watch it, remember that it's easy to just say, "Oh, it's just a movie," or "Oh, that's so wrong" and then move on with your life. It's not just a movie and it's happening. All. The. Time. Let it be fuel for taking action and change!
“We believe in the power of story,” Warner Bros. said in a statement. “Our film ‘Just Mercy,’ based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, is one resource we can humbly offer to those who are interested in learning more about the systemic racism that plagues our society.”
On Friday, my youngest daughter graduated from preschool. It is so bittersweet because this preschool was our first find when we moved to Marin 6 years ago. My oldest was 2 at the time, and now both daughters have each spent 3 years at this adorable, loving school. I've cherished the friends and families we have met through this school as well, and I went from knowing absolutely no one in Marin, to having 2 amazing besties, Seran and Carolina.
Last night, one of the moms from our preschool messaged me, thanking me for being vocal in our community and in my posts. She is a Black woman with 2 daughters and a son. We chatted for a bit, but she too, has been shocked at the racism that has emerged these past 2 weeks, in Marin. She moved here for the beautiful environment, great schools, and whom she thought were great people. But she wrote to me:
"I love everyone, but have faced the kind of racism I don’t want my kids to experience and I’m sad to say that I may have to leave this area as I now see that it’s not for me and my kids."
THAT. Breaks my heart. But that is the hard truth. And that is why WE have to speak up if ANYONE we talk to expresses any type of racism or privilege. Of course there are those that are outright racist. However, I am choosing to believe, or I am giving the benefit of doubt, that for most people in our neighborhoods, it begins by getting educated and then doing self-reflection. We all have "unconscious bias" or judgments and perceptions that have been ingrained and now is the time to fix them.
We start with ourselves. Then we share and pass on what we learn, kindly and peacefully. We can give concrete examples. Analogies. Role playing. Role reversal. Most people just don't understand because they've never experienced it. But now, there's no excuse to not "know what it's like." We NEED to know what it's like and truly feel it, deep down, until it makes us sick.
Because when we truly feel sick to our stomachs, then we understand why all of our voices and actions are needed to create CHANGE.
On Saturday, my best friend Karen went to a protest in my hometown, Cupertino, and the photo above is of her sons and their posters. I grew up in Cupertino and never remembered a protest happening there before. This is new. This is progress. This is good. This is actual change. This is history in the making.
When I taught Kindergarten in Cupertino, we always did role playing in January when we learned about Martin Luther King Jr. The examples were as simple as, "Let's pretend anyone wearing green on their clothes cannot go on the playground today. If you have a freckle on your face, you can't read any books. If you have blond hair, you don't get any lunch." Easy to understand right? Very clear.
So now let's talk about reality.
Present day blatant racism looks like: Yesterday on Tiktok, a Black man posted a video of himself in tears because he had made a previous video and someone commented, "I was gonna like the vid but I realized ur black." Followed by the "green nauseated" emoji. THIS IS REALITY. HAPPENING NOW.
That literally makes me sick.
And now, on to the list of things you and I can do... without getting shot.
"I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can have a cellphone (StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (AltonSterling)I can sleep (AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (TamirRice)
I can go to church (Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today."
copied on Instagram @michellepfeifferofficial
Please watch if you want to understand more why this is specifically Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter.
I think she explains it well.
So that was my entire week, day by day. Now it is Sunday. Today, I plan on showing my girls this CNN/Sesame Street Racism Town Hall presentation that aired today. I plan on watching "13th" with my husband in this next week. There is also a protest for those of you interested who live in Marin and want to join us:
Please keep reading, keep learning, keep asking questions, keep donating, keep speaking up. What I have to remember is that no matter how anti-racist we think we are, unless we are actually part of the Black community, we have a lot of work to do.
Signs of Hope and Unity
Just 3 highlights from the week that I want to share with all of you... Among all the violence and hate, believe in love and hope.
2) Protestors and looters are not the same people! Just like the 1% of bad cops aren't like the 99% of good cops.
3) And finally, this is a MUST WATCH: We aren't born racist. Feel free to watch it on repeat like I am because this is the world I "thought" I lived in and I believe it is possible.
What are your plans this upcoming week for Black Lives Matter? Comment on my blog post or email me back if you'd like. And if you aren't doing anything, please ask yourself why. We need you!