Justice Begins with Listening by Phillip Schreibman

This blog is part of Temple Beth El’s Elul Blog Project. Read more about this year’s project. 

So, you’re asked to write a reflection on the lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic. Easy, right? The traumatic desocialization of kids, educational disparities, healthcare access inequalities, science crisis, normalization of extremism…so many choices!

But what I will remember most are the opportunities I had to sit and listen to Black and Brown people tell stories of hurt, distress, discrimination and fear. My organization BASF was, and is, a champion for minorities and women in the workplace and in 2020 we faced George Floyd’s murder head on. How you ask? With a lot of storytelling and listening – by really engaging our entire organization to pause and think.

While our brothers and sisters cry for change, many white people are still just waking up to racial disparity. You see, for many white people, George Floyd’s murder was the start of their self-awareness, social consciousness, and cultural competence journey. After all, it is hard for white people to jump right into change activism if they haven’t connected to the distress and fear that black and brown people live with every day. Of course, measures of improvement, metrics, and policy change must come too!

American history is filled with the smokescreen of white perspective. Our Black and Brown brothers and sisters carry a legacy of painful experiences and generational suffering. Too many times in 2020, the Every.Day. stories of discrimination and fear were the first time a white person heard them. It will require more tolerance and, for lack of a better term, courage from white people to swell the tides of change in America.

We sometimes take for granted how much we learn from Jewish history. We remember our stories of survival and teach, as Maya Angelou appraised, to do better because we know better. In 2020, we collided with people unwilling to acknowledge our troubled history, who were defiant about “doing better.” Deeply entrenched and institutionalized discrimination require a naked and ugly kind of honesty. And if we’re being honest, the shit Black and Brown people experience every day isn’t pretty, and the ways people deflect their brutal reality is even uglier.

My road to self-awareness, social consciousness, and cultural competence has been a rich and rewarding journey. To make an impact requires caring, allyship, and change, and I have a unique ability to make that impact a white person. Saying the names of those who have died is a good first step to standing with our Black and Brown brothers and sisters in the face of ignorance and hate. For an encore, I encourage you to pull up a chair and a cup of coffee and listen.

Philip Schreibman is the son of Sara and the late Mike Schreibman. He is husband of Renee, and proud father of Asher 12, Mayer 9, and Sadie 5. Philip is a native Charlottean and Temple Beth El member since birth! He enjoys time with his family, writing, sports, and coaching leaders. Be sure to connect with Philip on LinkedIn for more articles.