Photo of Chrysta Wilson in the 10th grade, Wolfson High School, Jacksonville Florida.
I was offline all weekend, dealing with personal issues so I missed the news. And today, instead of catching up on the weekend news like I normally do, I focused on client work and then editing my DEI course to help leaders interrupt identity-based harm and violence as it may show up at work.
The language used, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, is the term my clients often use, but make no mistake: my work for the last 25 years has always been focused on uprooting oppression, and in an asset-based framing, focused on the collective liberation of any and everyone that has been othered.
My heart dropped moments ago when I came to Instagram and learned that Jacksonville, Florida, one of my childhood hometowns, has become another scene of a N*zi-initiated mass shooting against innocent Black People.
I'll link a story in the comments, but in short: a 21-year-old white male wrote multiple manifestos that communicated his one goal, as law enforcement noted, which was to "Kill N*ggers". He showed up at a Dollar General store with a swastika-covered assault rifle and murdered 3 Black people as he intended.
People that look like me.
Had my mom not moved me from Jacksonville to California in 1996, had my sister not moved her and my niece from there in 2010, we might have been on the Northside that night. It could have been us.
I went to Middle School not far from this attack.
I had after-school programs not far from this shooting.
This isn't to make the tragedy about me, I just can't separate my history of racism from this city and this racist attack.
When I talk about the places that shaped my understanding of racial injustice, and racialized violence, and racial bias, many of you have heard me speak of Jacksonville, Florida as a place that showed me racism was alive and well.
I was never called N*gger in Atlanta. But when we moved to Jacksonville, I sure was called it there. A lot. By white people who intended harm, or who said it so casually to describe a "lesser than being" they didn't even notice the harm they were causing by its use.
My experience in Jacksonville for those 6 long years felt like the Confederacy. Not to sat Atlanta didn't have its challenges: on the outskirts, we lived at the foothills of the largest white supremacy monument and confederate memorial in the United States. But Jacksonville wasn't just monuments: it was people actively in hate. And, it was why I was elated to leave in 1996 when the opportunity presented itself.
It was in Jacksonville where I had my first physical altercation with N*zis when they stood outside of a Kmart, selectively passing out fliers to Black people telling them that N*ggers didn't belong and they would soon all be killed. I was 10, and afraid because of the reaction I saw my mom read the paper the scary white men gave her, which she crumbled up quickly before I could see it. This whole event--a story for another day-- would become a core memory.
I can't help but think that my niece, whose father still lives in Jacksonville, recently worked at a Dollar store like where the shooting took place. If she lived with her father, who isn't far from where this shooting took place, she could have been caught in the crosshairs.
Every single white person reading this has some interrogation to do with your relationship with White Supremacy delusion and the benefits of Whiteness. I say this from a place of care and compassion, as someone who has been coaching and training folks for 25 years to address racial injustice.
This virus of white supremacy delusion will not be solved by Black anti-racism coaches and healers like me.
Each of you, my white siblings, is invited to find the root of what anti-Blackness beliefs and biases lives in you and begin to do the unlearning and healing inside of you. And then do this work with your dad, brother, nephew, cousin, and uncle.
Because I will continue to do my part. It's part of my sacred responsibility and calling.
But we're not ever going to get free from this if you all don't actively start doing your work. And I don't mean career choice: I mean your work as a human who exists in this country and benefits from the power ascribed to your complexion.
That is my reflection and invitation for us all.
Postscript: It's not lost on me that this happened in Florida, where the White Governor and his party-led legislature have revised the school books to educate students on the "benefits" of Enslavement, outright banning education of racial injustice, and adding to the curriculum that that Enslaved Africans benefitted from the institution of slavery because learned "skills" and a trade. This kind of violence is bound to continue as Black Americans continue to name racial inequity, and their White Counterparts are learning that racial inequity is a lie, and the foundation of American Racism "wasn't that bad"