Good Saturday, everyone! I am starting a study with the book called “White Fragility” this week. Funny thing is, I signed up for the class in January. But it couldn’t be coming at any better time.

So, what does white fragility mean? It means as a white person we feel uncomfortable and defensive when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.

To be thought of as racist would mean you are judging our moral character, right? Racist means hatred, discrimination, and prejudice directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity. Most of us don’t think we fit in that category; we are, after all, good people.

I have friends of all races and I didn’t feel that I was a racist person. But racism comes in many different ways. When I first started in this position, I would get calls from individuals who moved here from Chicago and now needed our help, our community’s help. They moved here with only what they could carry because our housing was so much cheaper. Some came with up to eight children, with no food or beds, no form of transportation and not knowing our area. I would think, “So now you want us to take care of you?”

Years ago, when I would hear about someone getting cancer, I would say simply “oh, that’s too bad.” I had never known, personally, anyone that had to endure that kind of battle. But when my dad developed brain cancer, and I watched what the disease and the treatment did to him, my whole heart ached for anyone having to go through it. To this day, 20 years after my dad’s passing, my heart still hurts for anyone struggling to beat this unseen monster. I try to put myself in their place as best I can.

That is what I do now with these calls that come in from families moving here from Chicago. I know what it is like to be a mother, a single mother at that, wanting to give our children the best life we can. So, I try to imagine how bad it must have been to live in Chicago that you would move to a community you know little about, with just what you can carry with you, in hopes for a better life.

I should be welcoming, understanding, non-judgmental. Isn’t that what our ancestors did when they traveled to America in hopes of a better life?

Our purpose at United Way of Danville Area is to ensure that our neighbors, no matter their circumstances, have opportunities and support to realize their full potential. We are committed to our community and this year, if nothing else good comes out of it, I can say I am proud of how we have all worked together, supporting one another, and living united.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 425 N. Gilbert St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone, 442-3512.

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