Fellow white people: the responsibility of talking about race and racism doesn’t fall solely on people of color. It’s on us.
Anti-racism work isn’t easy. And it requires something from we white people that is hard to admit – we mess up. A lot. I’m no different. I don’t talk about racism because I’m some kind of perfect white boy. I have said and done things I am ashamed of.
In college, I became liberal…and fell into that classic liberal mistake – I couldn’t be racist. I had black friends! I had a crush on a black woman! And I made mistake after mistake.
Once, I brought the woman I had a crush on to my parent’s house south of the campus in Texas. I made what I thought was a funny joke on the way – this small town was probably not the best place for her. I’ll never forget her face when I said it.
This wasn’t a joke. This was her life. I never had to think twice about going anywhere in this country in my white skin. Not her.
When I was a junior, I lived with three guys, one of them black. We were playing a version of Madden on PS2, and he was kicking my ass. The word slipped out before I even knew what was happening. Not the “n” word; yet an ethnic slur all the same. I apologized over and over again, but I’ll never forget his face. It didn’t matter how liberal I was. Or how good of friends we were.
I was white; I had the privilege; I participated in the racist system, even when I didn’t want to. Or knew I was doing it.
I was called out by these actions – and I predictably got defensive. That’s not what I meant! You know we’re friends! No. I messed up. And I had to deal with the consequences. Repent. Turn around. Be better.
It was more than words. It was the entire system that socialized me to consider myself superior, better, not racist at all. Bullshit.
I’m different today. I’ve learned a lot since college. But I still mess up. I’m still white in the USA. I still need to recognize white supremacy so I can dismantle it.
It may be uncomfortable for us, white people. We want to shut down and not talk about it. This is part and parcel of our privilege. We CAN walk away, whenever we want. People of color don’t have that luxury. Their very lives are on the line.
If we want to call ourselves allies, we must remain in the struggle. We must go get our own. We must take this shit seriously.
Because racism is killing us – not in the same way or at the same level as PoC, yet destroying us all the same. We gotta wake up to that. Before it’s too late.