When discussing issues of systemic racism in the world in regards to people of color in America, it can rise in one’s mind the inquisition of how it is that white people can be so blind to such a large part of their country. Many times we conclude that they just aren’t exposed to it. That cannot be the case because it is truly everywhere.
AS a white female, raised in Charleston SC by a mother who was from Compton, I knew I was raised vastly different than most whites my age. We discussed race. We were taught the true history of slavery and racism. I was one of the only children in my 5th grade class questioning the Thanksgiving celebration and asking pressing questions about why we were not learning more about the people whose land we stole.
I could share many more stories about my experiences and what I did right in the matter of racial injustice, but I am going to shift focus onto what I did wrong and what others around me did and more importantly did not do. It is our unspoken white culture to guard these experiences unconsciously as though we do not want people of color to know how we operate among ourselves. I want to break that silence.
In white culture, we do not discuss race or racial issues and we are taught it is rude & impolite to discuss such things. We are taught by body language, energy and subtle cues not to correct other white people when doing such things. I can recall being around my father’s family, they used the word n***** liberally, yet never when my mother was in the room. I never told her. Being a teenager in visiting the home of my father’s military friends & family where his wife was showing off their property, she pointed at the neighbor behind them and stated their yard looked like “n*****ville”. My brother and I left in protest, while my father apologized for our behavior and chastised us for standing against it and being so rude.
Yes in white culture we do not correct people when they say racial things. We laugh and discuss it later. Polite white supremacy and polite racism is what makes up our culture. We are not blind to racism and we know it exists — we are very well trained to allow it to exist.
We, what can you do? Question things to start. Recall times in your life when adults said or did things that were either blatantly racist or subtly so. What were the reactions of those around you? Of yourself? Has this happened to you as an adult and is so, what was your reaction? If you cannot recall an experience, you need to only think harder or watch for it in your life now.
Watching a movie with a predominately white cast, an example would be Pitch Perfect, in a scene with police and the black character is the first to run. You laugh — why? Now flash to Walter Scott, shot wile running away from an officer or Freddie Gray — who ran and was chased down. Do you still laugh or find yourself saying they shouldn’t have run? Now go watch Pitch Perfect again and note your reaction. Question things until you find solid answers because after a life of being taught to ignore and even being entertained by those things, you must start asking questions so that you can progress yourself, those around you, and your children towards racial justice, equality, understanding and unity.