Dear fellow white people, I’m that white, straight woman who’s stayed publicly silent about racism due to fear. The messages of my youth rising to the surface, “Don’t say something you’ll regret. Be a good girl. Don’t rock the boat.”
Racism is a systemic evil I didn’t want to perpetuate by inadvertently offending or patronizing people of color. After all, who am I, from my place of white privilege, to speak about something I’ve never experienced?
At the same time my heart hurts and I’m consumed by sorrow—aching for a time when all of humanity is safe from itself.
When I peel back my internal conflict, I’m ashamed to admit that more than anything I’ve been afraid of potential backlash if I make a misstep. While it’s true I want to be sensitive, I’ve also kept myself safe in my silence. But…
My safety doesn’t help those who are unsafe because of their color, ethnicity, gender or orientation.
Over the years I’ve done a ton of internal work I’m proud of but my ignorance about what it really means to be a person of color surfaced with my desire for public self-preservation.
To say I’m uncomfortable writing this is a gross understatement. As I continue, please forgive me if I mess up. Reach out, talk to me, educate me, help me to let go of the racist baggage I carry that has been passed down from past generations. Help me unpack and release imprints of racism I carry from unjust societal messages.
I don’t know if I’m being anti-racist in the right way—if there is such a thing—but my conscious won’t let passivity cut it anymore. Nothing short of being actively anti-racist will suffice. And I invite you to look at the messages you received and how they impacted you.
I grew up with a dad who used the N-word when referring to brazil nuts still in their dark shell. N**** toes is what he called them. Contrary to this was one of my mom’s favorite novels Five Smooth Stones about an interracial romance during the civil rights movement. Somehow both points of view were normal when I was little. From that dichotomy I learned a lot about how I wanted to show up in the world.
I don’t think I’m racist. You might not either. But are you sure about that?
Have you peered into the darkness of your own thoughts and beliefs? Have you dared expose what might be lurking? Or is your desire to preserve your comfort more important? Staying silent and safe.
My intention is not to call anyone out but to challenge all of us to call ourselves out. The task of personal growth in any area requires us to be willing to look at some uncomfortable and sometimes disheartening truths about ourselves.
Nothing will change until we who are privileged because of our white skin accept that truth—having white skin is a privilege—and with privilege comes responsibility. It’s imperative for us to affect change—starting with ourselves.
It’s not enough to pat ourselves on the back because we have black friends and are nice to the middle eastern store owner down the block.
It’s not enough to pray for change to a chosen God while conveniently forgetting that Jesus, Mohammad and Buddha, among others, were people of color.
Maybe you’re not ready to speak out publicly—that’s okay. But please, let’s all educate ourselves. If you feel called to demand change from your local and federal government—do so. If you’re not there yet, please take the time to examine your closeted views. Reach out to a friend you feel safe to explore the subtle nuances of your thoughts with.
It’s our white skinned responsibility to be radically honest with ourselves and get ourselves educated.
When I ask people what they miss and what they want in their relationships there are naturally a variety of answers, but one desire rises up most often—FREE. Free to be themselves. Free of their hurts. Free of what’s held them back.
Freedom is a basic human desire and dignity that must be afforded to all.
Until everyone is free from persecution for being who they are, all of humanity is compromised.