Dear white people in America-
Please stop saying “I’m not racist”. That is just defensive-ness.
I get it. I, too, don’t want to be a part of “that” club.
I have no interest in wearing a white hood or burning crosses. I believe in equality and I am anti-othering. I do not believe in white supremacy and am disgusted by Charlottesville, disproportionate police violence against people of color, and institutional racist policies and practices. I respect and appreciate the Black Lives Matter movement and understand why the retort of “all lives matter” is offensive. I know that I have white privilege and I challenge and educate those who do not understand these concepts.
And, with all my heart, I do not want to be racist.
But I cannot ignore that I grew up in a racist world. As a child, I heard my sweet grandmother complain in disgust about the “blacks” and Mexicans” who were moving into her neighborhood. On nightly news, I was inundated with images of black people being arrested and incarcerated. In high school I saw friends react aghast and whisper denigrations when they saw a mixed-race couple. In history classes, I was regularly taught about our exemplary white founding fathers, and only briefly discussed (usually during Black History Month) leaders of color.
I could go on… and I would imagine that you have your own stories to add. And, while your experiences were inevitably different, I know that you grew up in a racist world too.
Racism is inherent in our American culture. Since the moment of birth, we each have been growing and learning in this racist world. We have learned bigoted and discriminating ways of being without even knowing it. And, all that affects our actions.
I, for example, have crossed a street because of the black teenagers that were headed my way and have described a person of mixed race as beautifully “exotic”. I have been shocked and dismayed yet remained silent when a black friend was followed by a store employee while we were shopping at the mall. And, I have told off-color jokes.
I am not proud of and have shame surrounding all of this. Yet, all these things are racist. So, clearly, I cannot defiantly say, “I’m not a racist”.
But, what I can do is be aware of, learn from and continually make changes in my inherent racist views and offending actions.
So, please, white people of America, please stop saying “I am not racist” and start being curious about the ways you are racist and then make changes accordingly.