Life and Health

Racism and Privilege

I don’t know how to write this and I’m not sure I’ll make any sense or do any justice but I am frightened for the world we are creating for the children; all the children but especially the black and brown children as they continue to see people who look like them unjustly imprisoned, harassed and murdered with the ripple effect that has on their community.

I often keep my thoughts and opinions off social media in regards to racism but my heart hurts again and again as we see news of someone’s mother, sister, brother, son, friend, etc… being beaten, berated, or killed simply for having a different color skin.

I often stay silent online because I’m not sure what I could contribute to the dialogue that sounds at all educated or “woke”. I know that I am a product of white privilege and I know that I am relatively naive about racial issues since I grew up in a suburban, white, private school life. I know my parents did what they thought was best for me and to give me the best life I could have by giving me opportunities and exposure to things to help me continue to climb the ladder of success.

But what about black and brown parents who aren’t able to give those opportunities to their children? What about the black and brown parents who have to try twice as hard to get half as far? When we strip all the humanity away from them based solely on their skin color what else are they left with? We expect them to live on the scraps of life that we leave them.

I also remain silent online because often I am afraid that I will say the wrong thing, share the wrong post, or be pointed out for the fake that I feel like. As I said, I have led a very naive life when it comes to racial issues. I don’t want to ask individuals of black and brown skin to explain it to me, I know it’s not their job but I need to learn so I Google, I read, I try to educate myself but it never feels enough.

Sometimes I feel like if I ask questions I would be answered angrily because I am just that naive so instead I chose to remain silent and continue my side quest of learning more, digging into my feelings, digging into my uncomfortable-ness, and indeed leaning into my own privilege and racism. Even if it is by accident or due to ignorance it is still racist.

We, as white people, owe it to the rest of the world to show up and sit outside our comfort zone because we are at least safe in our skin tone. If I get pulled over by the cops I don’t have to fear for my life, I just have to show my license and registration. I don’t ever have to answer a million questions about if I belong somewhere or be followed like I’m automatically a thief. But there are some people who are, there are some people who live their lives never belonging or being good enough simply because of the color of their skin. We can sit around and say “that’s not true!” or “that doesn’t REALLY happen!” but it does, we keep hearing about it; how many times must we hear or see something to believe it’s true or to believe it’s painful?

We can sit here and say “I wouldn’t do that!” or “Not me and my family!” in a shocked face clutching at our pearls but what would we do? If we are faced with it what will we use our safe skin and privilege to do? Some of the kindest people I know who would give anyone the shirt off their backs still make sweeping generalizations about people of color, and that is racism.

Again, I worry about the children who will be given whatever world is left by time we’re done with it. This world is in tatters, it’s coming apart at the seams and someone has to be willing to stitch it together again. We cannot continue allowing almost 30% of our population to feel like they are not full citizens. We cannot continue sitting here letting their wounds, generational wounds that have festered for centuries, lie open without saying “I’m sorry” and “I hear you” and “what can I do?”. It sounds stupid and it sounds trite but I believe in starting with compassion.

Can I erase generations of damage? No, I can’t but I can not be afraid to confront these issues both with myself and the Munchkin. I can teach her that race really does exist even if it shouldn’t and people like her and I are safe but people who look like her teachers and friends at school may not feel as safe as we do. I shared with her Sterling K Brown’s video after Ahmaud Arbery’s death and had to explain why General Mattias (he voiced a character in Frozen II) was upset. It’s not an easy conversation to have with a four year old; I’d rather hide in the “I don’t see color, I see everyone equally” colorblindness but that’s not reality for people who don’t feel safe in their own skin.

The genetic differences may be small but the history of abuses that those differences have created make it impossible to ignore them.

I apologize if this doesn’t come off sounding like a good ally; I am relatively new to the ally game as I take the color blinders off and see what atrocities have been committed while we all walked around saying “I don’t see color”. Don’t be afraid to take the blinders off. I know it’s hard and it’s scary; I know that we’d rather pretend all is equal but it’s not. And for some it has really life or death consequences; for me and mine it’s just about feeling uncomfortable. I should be able stand feeling uncomfortable – it won’t kill me.

Lives lost
Voices silenced
Days cut short

They beg
They cry
They kneel
They scream
They fight

When will we listen?
When will we stop?
When will we see?
When will it be enough?

Blackness as human
Whiteness shouldn’t be right
Brownness as beautiful
Whiteness shouldn’t be power
Diversity is strength
(Written by me on May 28, 2020)

Pick one small thing, it doesn’t take much to get started. It’s okay to be scared it’s just not okay to look the other way. I started following The Conscious Kid on Instagram and I started listening to the 1619 Podcast from the New York Times. It’s not easy but if every white person took one step towards understanding that would be a whole lot of steps because #blacklivesmatter.

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