From the editor: Join me on this Indivisible journey by bringing an open mind and an open heart
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — I am rarely at a loss for words. I process my feelings by verbalizing them, and I make my living by stringing together sentences, telling other people’s stories and, oftentimes, weighing in on important issues and sharing my opinion through editorial writing.
But George Floyd’s death under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in May and the ensuing protests that broke out across the U.S., silenced me. Words escaped me, and I was overwhelmed by feelings of ignorance, guilt and terrible sadness.
Typically, I channel those types of strong emotions into a column, or more privately, my journal. But this time, I felt inadequate and unworthy to put words on paper.
And so, at the age of 55, I looked in the mirror and acknowledged my white privilege. I shut my mouth, put down my pen and began to listen and learn.
I read books like “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin Diangelo. I listened to podcast after podcast featuring intelligent disrupters and thought leaders of color — people like Austin Channing Brown and Ibram X. Kendi. And I began following Layla Saad, Ijeoma Oluo and the hashtag #meandwhitesupremacy on Instagram.
I opened my mind to new ideas and concepts, some of which made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I came to the conclusion that I will never fully understand what it is like to be a person of color in the U.S., but that does not absolve me from the responsibility to fight against social injustice. And for me, the journey started with self-awareness and education.
I began by acknowledging my privilege and moving away from a neutral, “I’m not a racist” mentality. And even though I was raised to love people of all races, ethnicities, cultures and economic statuses, that fact wasn’t enough anymore. I also had to get rid of the concept of “color blindness” that so many white people cling to. Ignoring race is not acceptable, and it’s definitely not right to call others racist for acknowledging the issue. To say you don’t see color is to deny people of color their experience and their story, and that must stop.
Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I can best contribute to the cause of anti-racism through my work as a journalist and editor.
I share all of this because I think it’s important that you, our readers, understand a little about the journey I’ve been on over the past several months, and I invite you now to join me as we embark on the six-week Indivisible reporting series, which the Steamboat Pilot & Today news team has been working on since January.
This year, 2020, has served to expose the inequities that exist in our community, and our Indivisible series is perfectly timed to illuminate these issues. For example, when COVID-19 resulted in a statewide stay-at-home order, I had the privilege of working from home, but those who stock our grocery store shelves did not. This series not only tackles race and culture divides but also sheds light on divisions surrounding economic status, gender identity and rural vs. urban mindsets that exist right here in our mountain town.
As journalists, it’s not our job to make people feel comfortable. When we’re doing our best work, we uncover all sides of an issue, we present new concepts, we shed light on topics that many wish could be left in the dark, and we amplify diverse voices that deserve to be heard.
And now the choice is yours. You can close yourself off from this discussion; you can get offended and never read another word of this series. Or you can allow yourself to be challenged; you can engage with this series by opening your mind and your heart to new ideas and perspectives.
This is a community conversation that is not going away, so I hope you’ll choose to get involved from the beginning. This also isn’t a topic that can be covered in just six weeks, and the Pilot & Today news team is committed to reporting on issues of diversity, equity and inclusivity beyond the conclusion of the series.
And finally, I want to acknowledge that our newsroom is not racially diverse, and this fact has been at the center of our discussions about the series from the start. Through our reporting for this project, our team of journalists has made connections with people of color in our community as well as others who are working toward making Steamboat and Routt County a more indivisible community, and it is our belief that these relationships with trusted sources will result in more diverse voices being represented in our reporting going forward.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments about the series, and as always, we would welcome letters to the editor in response to our reporting.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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