I’m trying to be a better person.
Each day my mind is bogged down with the many fights we as humans face. The environment. Marriage Equality. Income Inequality. Civil Rights. Racism. This is but a small list of the worries I carry with me, and each day I make a conscious decision to work on one of them. How fucking privileged is that? How fortunate am I that I have the OPTION to decide, as my life is not impacted by racism. I can DECIDE to help.
Look, I get it, the white folks I know aren’t going out of their way to be racist, but the fact remains it doesn’t take a white sheet and a hood to be a racist.
I consider myself an open minded, love everyone kind of gal. I don’t turn my back on a person due to sex, race, religion, etc. HOWEVER, this doesn’t erase the fact that I have unconscious biases.
Recently Dr. Stacey Patton, a reporter for The Chronicle for Higher Education, who holds a PhD in American History, posted on her Facebook page these humbling words:
“Man listen, I’m about to go grocery shopping at the local Whole Foods and I am paranoid about shopping while Black around White people. Last night I went to a Latino – owned restaurant in Silver Spring and two young White men walked in and the anxiety was palbable. I felt the same tension and paranoia the other day while riding in an Acela train car packed with mostly White men.
After all these videos of White cops beating and killing unarmed Black people, many times after some White “citizen” called the cops on them for doing ——– while Black, and after the killings in Charleston, I am uncomfortable in public spaces with White people I don’t know. I can be riding the Metro, picking out tomatoes, heading to and from work and some White person can have a reverse hallucination and perceive me as a threat, as out of place, and call the cops and even assert their privilege to participate in my arrest or beating. We have plenty videos of this happening to Black women and teens.
We are all vulnerable. Our bodies are never ours. And none of us, male or female, you or old, rich or poor, have the privilege to take that fact for granted. You or I could be next.”
My initial reaction was one of wanting to help. How the hell do I make this better for Stacey and people who live life having to be constantly worried about white people (for god damn good reason)? How can I work to take away the paranoia of being in the space of white people?
I reached out with those questions in mind and Stacey, not one to sugar coat the truth, explained to all White People, this is not a problem to be solved by Black People. And she is 100% right. I felt like an asshole, asking the victim(s) of so many traumas to help me problem solve. I realized what a hypocrite I have been about being an alley, as I’ve had my own battles with those wanting to be allies to the LGBTQ community. How many times have I complained that it is not my responsibility to inform the straight community of the unequal treatment I have faced? Too many times to count.
With my hypocrisy clearly apparent, I had to take my own advise … I needed to really open my eyes to the day to day living of “others.” It is a simple process to be involved in the large campaigns of changing laws and grassroots movements, but when it comes the mundane day-to-day living, how am I being helpful? Sure, I’ve read books, watched documentaries, have had intellectual conversations with friends, strangers, and family, attended rallies, called people out when they make racist comments, etc., but what am I doing DAILY to help eradicate racism? The answer … not much.
I walked into work yesterday with a different lens. I watched how people interacted with each other. I watched a color division almost invisible to my white eyes. I watched as a white southern woman bumped into a man from India and she waited for him to say excuse me. I watched a white man enter the shop without a care or concern, as if he owned the place, meanwhile the Spanish speaking woman entered the shop with timid apprehension. I saw only one black person enter the store. ONE!
I listened to how I interacted with all of these people, and I was disappointed in myself. I found that when a foreigner or person of color approached the cash register I was trying so hard to convey my acceptance that it must surely look like an act. I wanted so badly for “the other” to feel accepted that I made it fucking awkward. I blame some of this on the area I live in.
Utah is not known for its colorfulness. Utah is so white that I often complain about it. But growing up in this culture is bound to make a person an accidental racist. How can a person say they aren’t racist but continually be surrounded by only white people? Those that know me will rush to my aid and proclaim, “but Marcy, your brother in law is black, you have biracial nieces.” Here’s the thing … that doesn’t matter. That is just a card we flash to enter into a space where we don’t have to examine our own behavior.
Friends, I’ve NEVER had a boss who was black. EVER. How fucking sad is that? Work occupies a large chunk of our time, and in my years of work I can count, on two hands, how many co-workers were not white. I’m 40 fucking years old and I’ve never had a boss of color. How is this possible? Racism makes this possible. I participate in racism, without my consent, daily. And so do you. I know … you’re feeling defensive right now. It’s a normal reaction that needs to be eradicated. This defensiveness is killing Black People. This defensiveness is taking away from the trauma of a whole group of people.
Today I ask white people to try this exercise. How many of you have had a supervisor/boss/leader of color? Especially those of you that live in Utah. And if you answer is not at least 50% then concede that you participate in a racist structure, even if it is not of your making.