Representative Sherry Frost spoke at “Stop Asian Hate,” a rally held on Sunday, March 21 in Concord. Organized by the Asian American & Pacific Islander Caucus of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and the Kent Street Coalition, the event drew hundreds of participants. In her speech, Sherry challenged white people to recognize that it is their responsibility to fight racism.
I’m always honored - and a little mystified - when I’m invited to speak at rallies like these. As a middle-aged white woman, I’m used to having my voice centered, and I am mindful of the possibility that I may be taking up space that can be better occupied by someone who doesn’t get the same access to microphones that I do.
As I was composing my thinking about what to say to you today, it occurred to me that my job isn’t to speak to you about the experiences of our AAPI communities, or of our queer family, or of our friends and neighbors and families of color; my job is to speak to my fellow white people, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Know this: none of this would be happening if it weren’t for a culture that tells white people that we’re better than; let’s be bluntly and brutally clear about this. The problem of violence against
non-white communities is not on those communities; it’s on that culture of white superiority. The problem of underrepresentation of non-white people everywhere: in media and business and education and government (and the overrepresentation of them in what we laughably call our ‘criminal justice’ system) is because of whiteness. The systems in the United States were set up,
from Colonial times to what’s happening in State Houses like this all around the country right now, to support and advantage a very particular, very narrowly defined demographic, and here we are, 400-some-odd years later, still dealing with the results of those carefully curated and maintained systems that continue to tell people who look like me that we are superior to people
we call “others.” Think about HB544, which would make conversations like this in schools and workplaces against the law, or HB 266, which would force our municipalities to work with ICE. Whose interests are THESE measures serving?
Oh, yeah . . . YOU know.
You know it’s bullshit, so I know I’m preaching to the proverbial choir, but hear me out for a few minutes more, dear White People, because I want you to think about what you’re doing here today. I want to get you a little worked up about all this privilege that we are gifted by this white supremacist culture. I want you to meditate for a moment about how freely you get to speak - at work, in church, at town meetings, on the street, in the op-ed pages. I want you to consider how freely you get to move in those places, how valued your presence is there, how respected your input is, how many decisions you get to make, how often *you* get asked to speak
And I want you to USE IT. Leverage that privilege like it’s going out of style because, if we do this right, it *will.* Rallies and marches are good and important, but that’s not where the work gets done.
We need you to never be a bystander. If you hear someone make a racist crack, even if it’s in a room full of only white people, make sure you speak up and say, loudly so everyone else can hear, that you won’t put up with that nonsense in your presence.
We need you to put yourself between a racist and a victim - online and in person. Go to trainings to learn how to interrupt harassment. Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help; part of why some people don’t stand up is because they’re afraid they’ll be the only one. When you stand up, you make an example for others to follow.
Are you someone who gets to make decisions? We need you to start prioritizing non-white voices, perspectives, and needs. Ask who’s being left out of the conversation, actively invite them in and, once they get there, make sure they’ll stay by ensuring the environment you maintain isn’t toxic.
We need you to educate yourself and other white people. Remember, racism is a white person problem; it’s not on our families of color to teach us out of our white supremacy. Be an example, certainly, but initiate conversations, too. Call in other white people when you can, but call them out when you must.
This work is hard, it’s sometimes scary, and it’s sometime dangerous. It is constant, and it is, without question, the most important work we can do. Oh, and it’s not optional; you’re here because you know that. Our job now is to go out and do it.
Link arms, let’s go.
About the author
Representative Sherry Frost is a native New Englander who grew up in Exeter. She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a Master's degree in English and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Adolescent Development. She teaches English, American History and the Holocaust to high school and adult students. Sherry has been in the State House since 2016. She does not describe herself as a politician; rather she considers herself an activist who has been elected. She lives in Dover with her husband, two daughters, and a small pride of house cats.