A Time to Listen

By: John A. Lanier

What I’ve learned from the events of the past week is that the best thing I can do now is to listen, not talk.

Two and a half months ago, I used Ecocentricity to write about the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States. I set aside this blog’s stated focus on environmentalism because the novel coronavirus had made it impossible for me to think about anything else. I assure you, I am very hesitant to abandon this blog’s stated purpose. Yet here I am again, doing it once more. In this moment, racism is an issue of such great importance that it occupies my whole attention.

This time, this issue, is different though. Back in March, I was willing to opine about COVID-19. I won’t give you my opinion about what is ravaging this country right now, other than to say that I condemn racists and racism. That’s it – that’s the only personal opinion you will get from me.

The reason I stop there has everything to do with the color of my skin. Now more than ever, I am acutely aware that I am a beneficiary of white privilege. What I’ve learned from the events of the past week is that, as such a beneficiary of privilege, the best thing I can do now is to listen, not talk. To learn, not opine. To lift up the voices of those who know what it’s like to experience racism in America, not lift up my own voice. So that’s what I will do. Here are the people I am learning from right now:

  • My friend and colleague Marshall Shepherd wrote this article Monday about his experience as a black meteorologist.
  • Last Friday, as some protests turned destructive in the city of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed the city with these powerful words.
  • Former President Barack Obama shared his thoughts about turning this moment into lasting change in this article on Monday.
  • These two little boys teach in one hug what far too many Americans have failed to learn in a lifetime.

One last thing. Up until this day, despite considering myself a charitable person, I’ve never contributed financially to an organization that works directly and explicitly to promote racial equity. I have just fixed that, and I am proud to have made a contribution to the Partnership for Southern Equity. It isn’t much, but it’s more than I had done before and the least of what I will do moving forward. They, and all of the people working tirelessly to end racism in America, have my profound gratitude and respect.