“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
— Maya Angelou
I have always loved this quote. I literally repeat that last line to myself or quote it to friends when we’re regretting something we wish we’d done differently.
I’ll say, “Well, when you know better, do better.” I feel like it gives you grace and forgiveness when you realize you didn’t quite measure up, but then sets you on a path to move forward and improve. And those are the best quotes. It’s not just spewing rainbows and sunshine or making excuses. But here’s the thing … when you know better, there is no guarantee you will do better. And I think that’s where we are right now when it comes to our conversations about racial equality, whether they are ones we’re having internally or with those we love or perhaps people we haven’t talked about these things with before.
I know so many white parents — well-meaning, racially sensitive people who have always felt they were ardently against racism and were teaching their children that value as well — who are questioning whether they did it right, whether they did enough. And the hard truth is, I’m not sure we did.
A big epiphany for me, for instance, was recognizing that unless you have talked to your kids directly about systemic racism, you are in a sense contributing to it. It’s not enough to be passive; we have to be active in our acknowledgments. Perhaps as a white person you just were oblivious to all the ways racism infuses our society. That makes sense. It didn’t directly affect you, so you had the privilege of being unaware. But no more, right?
We know better, so now we must do better.
And in this month’s cover story, “Raising Anti-Racists,” we are trying to help with that effort. It is just the start of Metro Parent’s own gut check on how we can do better ourselves by providing more resources and voices that contribute to (hopefully!) profound and lasting change.
We don’t pretend that our contribution is huge. This work feels so embedded and difficult it’s easy to feel like the little bit you can do, we can do, doesn’t matter. But it does matter. Collectively all of our little actions, all of the ways we chip away at the long-accepted ways inequality exists in our country, add up.
It’s not too late to re-think how you talk to your children about race. It’s not too late to re-think how you’ve thought about racism. It’s not too late.
When you know better, do better.