I want to start by saying I am completely clear on what it means to be black in America, but what I will never understand is what it is to be black in America. They are very different things, but this is my starting point for a broad conversation on race in our community.
I know that white privilege does not refer to a person’s wealth, but rather the color of their skin. White privilege, regardless of personal wealth, is the great equalizer in the majority community, because each and every day that you get up and walk out into the world, you will never be treated differently because of the light shade of your skin. That privilege will rarely get you pulled over, followed while shopping, or reported for bird watching or selling lemonade. I’ve never known white privilege to get you killed with a knee of your neck by the side of the road.
My first memorable racist encounter was as a cheerleader at South Junior High. During the course of accumulating a 29-0 record over two seasons of basketball, we endured the most hate-filled rants from the players and fans of the schools we played across a three or four county area and it was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life.
At the time, we found solace in the fact that we did our talking on the court. We didn’t have a big group of parents who travelled with us to protect us. Our coaches would chalk it up to ignorance and encourage us to ignore. But 45-plus years later – I look back and think we were just kids. Those moments only served to bring us closer together as friends, but the reality was those fans taught their kids the words they used on us, as did their parents and their parents before. Those experiences were just a small fraction of the things I have seen and heard in my community over the course of my life. That same white privilege makes me privy to conversations and tactics, intentional and unintentional, that reinforce your knowledge that nothing really ever changes. Unfortunately, my own kids’ experiences weren’t any different growing up here than mine.
Racism is a learned behavior. It is not genetic, although it can be inherited. What has been striking to me watching the peaceful protest throughout the country has been the dialog with a generation who are working to force those inherited racist views and actions to not only skip a generation, but be eliminated from our society. I have faith and hope that this movement is being shared and supported by those that willfully buck the norms of their parents and any others who don’t share their belief that fighting for what is just is the right thing to do and that we are all in fact created equal. They accept, celebrate and are blind to ours differences, they demand change and they will not wait. That time is now.
We have a long way to go as witnessed by the language of some locals who continue to manage with an us versus them mentality. We continue to wallow in this that is Lima’s problem, not mine. It’s more of a Divided we stand, United we fall mentality. What is everyone so afraid of? The world is not black and white, it is so grey, it is not red or blue, but so purple; it is not Lima or Allen County, it is so just home.
My path in life has been diverse, I know what it is to love and be loved by my extended family. That love and my experiences have blessed my life beyond measure. In a world where you will always get what you give, it is time to give way to meaningful change.
I plan to do my part and my hope is that all of you will too.
Peggy Ehora is the 4th Ward councilor for the City of Lima. She is a lifelong resident of Lima and a former Lima City Schools board member. Reach her at Peggy.Ehora@cityhall.lima.oh.us or 419-905-8081