There’s a podcast out there, Seeing White. It poses the thought that there is racism without the bigotted racist we think about. I have to be honest, the podcast was difficult to listen to. It challenged my own internalized racism and the systematic racism that exists in the world around me. It’s easy for me not to see, after all I am white and my privilege allows me to remain blissfully ignorant. It allows me to scroll past black men being murdered by police. It allows me to scroll past white women in central park weaponizing the police. It allows me to keep scrolling because, let’s face it, I am white, my kids are white, my husband is white.
There’s also another factor that keeps me scrolling past, my career. You see I have been taught that you keep your mouth shut and head down on controversial issues. You don’t want to isolate any clients or customers. I have been told this by those closest to me and those that I trust implicitly in my business. I strongly considered making this post anonymous. I am self-employed. I have worked hard to build my business, but let’s be honest, I may lose clients and customers, but my privilege will allow me to replace the lost income. My brown friends aren’t so privileged. Speaking of race is controversial, but it shouldn’t be. There are simple facts:
- Racism exists in America.
- White Privilege exists in America.
- All police are not bad.
Most of us can agree on these three things. Yet to discuss any of it, all the sudden becomes a polarizing conversation that turns to anti-brown and anti-police. We can do better right? I invite you to open your heart and mind as you read this story and really ask yourself a question, “How old was I when I realized I was racist?”
I was 35 years old. I am 37 now. At 35 I checked all the boxes as a white woman for not being a racist:
- I have a diverse group of friends.
- I do not say overtly racist things.
- I make a status if something big happens in the news.
- I send thoughts and prayers.
- I correct overt racism.
- I don’t lock my doors when a person of color walks by (anymore…I remember doing this in my 20s).
With these bullet points, there is no way I am racist. Yet when I look back at the things I have absorbed, listened to, and participated in, I am sick to my stomach. I am a hop, skip and a jump away from my white privilege being just privilege to being overtly racist. With all this, none of the gut churning moments (like at 16 listening to my friends assign point values to people of color on bikes and not speaking up because I was afraid to be uncool) brought me to the realization that I am racist. The moment I realized I was in fact a racist was when my daughter got a book from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
The book was about a little boy and his dog. The little boy was hiding from his parents, and going on adventures in New York City. I remember he had a little weenie dog. The little boy was brown. Somewhere deep inside my gut a thought came to me, “Ugh, why isn’t he white, I wish this was a white family like us. Birdie isn’t going to like it.” The thought as quickly as it hit my thought center sent a rush of nausea to my gut. I was racist. For the record, she loved the book.
I wish I could tell you that from that point I have been the perfect ally. I haven’t. Like I said, I keep my head down and mouth shut. Wouldn’t want to upset my privilege would I? This is the thing…
I can be an ally for my fellow HUMANS of color and still be an ally for the police assigned to protect and serve.
I can be an ally for my fellow HUMANS of color and still be self-employed.
I can do all the things because this is America, land of the free (as long as you’re white).
I wish I could leave you with a riveting list of things we can do to be allies, but someone already did. The Medium writer Corinne Shutack composed a list of 75 things a we can do to truly be allies.