I don’t want to be. I don’t try to be. My mom didn’t purposefully raise me to be. But I am.
White Privilege. I’m racist because I’m white and I live in a country where that affords me privileges black folks don’t get. Just because I’m white. I don’t want to put white privilege in quotes, because that implies its existence is in debate. It’s not. I have privileges as a white person that others simply don’t have. And yes, I AM ashamed of it. Just because I didn’t seek out my white privilege doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And if I “choose” to not use my white privilege, well, I can’t. That’s not how it works. I have plenty of struggles, and I even grew up very poor — but not because of my skin color. Others can’t say the same.
Systemic Racism. I’m also racist because of the systemic racism that still exists in our country. I read a post by a black man who has to walk his tiny little poodle when he wants to go for a walk, because with the tiny poodle, he’s less threatening. That seems absurd. Surely I wouldn’t treat a black man any differently if we passed on the street. But then I thought about it. Would I? If this 6’2″, athletically built black man was walking down the street toward me, would I be nervous? What if he was having a bad day and had a sour look on his face? What if he hated white people? (See? Systemic racism. He MIGHT hate white people, and he might have really good reasons to feel that way. And NO, that’s not “reverse racism”, because there’s just no such thing) I’ve grown up in a bubble, even though I lived in the inner city of Detroit as a child. I was still a white kid in the inner city, so when it came time for me to get a job, I had an easier time simply because I’m white. (Yes, white privilege is part of systemic racism, but I wanted to list them both in bold)
Black Lives Matter. I can not understand why this phrase offends people. It’s not saying or implying that black lives matter more than any other lives. Just that they matter. As much. When we respond, “All Lives Matter” — we’ve missed the point entirely. We can’t erase the disproportionate police brutality by cleverly overwriting the sentiment with inclusivity. Of COURSE all lives matter, but that should include black lives, and the evidence shows it’s not the case. One of my favorite responses to saying “All Lives Matter” is this comic by Kris Straub:
Black People Don’t Need a White Savior. I can’t fix this. I can’t even understand all of it, because of my white privilege. So what should I do? Again, I don’t have all the answers. I know that if we want to make a difference as white people, we should listen to black people. Not so we can fix it, but so we can humbly try to help. I’m a problem solver by nature. I hate that this isn’t something I can fix, but I simply can’t. Hopefully I can be part of the solution.
So to my white friends: No one is mad at you for being white. No one blames you for your white privilege. But denying systemic racism exists is insulting, and a non-starter for moving forward. And honestly, we’re so blinded to the reality, I’m sure I’ve misrepresented things in this very post. Be humble. Acknowledge the disparity. Care. It’s not about us, even if it’s because of us.
To my black friends: You don’t need more burdens, that much I understand. But as a group, we (white people) are so sheltered from reality, we not only don’t know what we should do, we don’t even understand the depth of what’s going on. When white people say, “All Lives Matter”, many of them are trying to be loving and understanding. We want to be better. But we’re spoiled, ignorant, and are used to “fixing” things by snapping our fingers. (GAWD that’s an embarrassing truth) When I see my daughter proudly holding a Black Lives Matter sign while getting scorned by people in big trucks waving confederate flags — I have hope. But even her protest is a cry for guidance. And it’s guidance I can’t give her. Because I don’t know. And my ignorance is embarrassing, but I’d rather be embarrassed and look foolish than be silent and look hateful.
And lastly, to quote my friend Jim Wright, “If you want to be a better nation, be better citizens.”