Since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, the world has been talking about racism, white privilege, and bigotry in all its forms.
I’ve been hugely disappointed by the level of my ignorance.
Stories of violence against black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), all over the world, have sat on the outer fringes of my consciousness. I admit it took global protests to capture my undivided attention (a perfect example of white privilege).
Only someone who is not subjected to consistent violence, threats, and discrimination could ignore its continued existence. Before that, I only knew the basic “white-washed” history of slavery, Apartheid, and the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. Sometimes I would see the odd news stories of police brutality against BIPOC, such as the Rodney King beating in 1991.
I lived in West Hollywood at the time of the 1992 riots sparked by the acquittal of the cops involved in the Rodney King case (likely the main reason I was so aware of the story). I was living with my fiancé and his roommate at the time. I remember aggressively attempting to dissuade them from leaving the house during the riots because I knew damn well they were at a significantly higher risk of being assaulted or arrested by the police just for being black. Obviously, not too deep in my consciousness, I was aware of racial profiling by the police.
I admit, I generally avoid the news. I find most of it sensationalized “infotainment” designed to stir up negative emotions and cause divisive reactions, as this is what sells. The media cannot be trusted to present unbiased, neutral facts. And with so much information swirling around to such a dizzying degree, it’s nearly impossible to determine fact from fiction, which I’m sure is part of the grand plan. Confusion and ignorance perfectly aid in the puppet masters’ goal of world dominance.
I’ve spent many hours trying to educate myself on racism, white privilege, and bigotry so that I may be able to uncover my own racist beliefs and prejudices which lie under my denial. As uncomfortable as this process has been (and I’m only just scratching the surface), I’m determined to overcome my ignorance. I need to address my participation in perpetuating racism and bigotry by remaining silent and not fully addressing my own behavior and views.
I don’t want to be just another fair-weather ally to BIPOC and other marginalized groups by posting the occasional story on Facebook and utilizing the trending hashtag du jour. That kind of empty support will not create any real change and only serves to make me feel momentarily better about myself.
I can’t be a racist if I support BIPOC, right? Wrong!
As I continue my research by reading, listening, and watching stories of racism and bigotry produced by people of all races, identities, cultures, nationalities, and religions, the more I am confronted with a question:
In what ways have I behaved in a racist and/or bigoted way and how have I benefitted from white privilege?
The more research I do, the more I see how white supremacy has completely infiltrated and shaped not only my own attitudes and beliefs but those of all people, including BIPOC. It’s a genius, cradle-to-the-grave conditioning going on in societies all around the world. The more awake I become, the more I see the overt and covert racism and bigotry.
I even see the varying degrees of micro-aggression displayed by so many of my own Facebook “friends” and other people I encounter. It has left me feeling hugely uncomfortable with the part I’ve played in it. Whether I was simply ignorant of the issues and manipulated by mass media reports or because I chose to stay safely silent and on the sidelines, makes no difference. I am still complicit. I can’t claim to be anti-racist or anti-bigoted if I’m not willing to call out racism and bigotry whenever I see it, both in myself and everywhere else.
I need to focus on finding skillful means of calling it out in ways that encourage honest communication, as opposed to shaming others, which only leads to defensiveness and anger. As Brené Brown so aptly says,
“The biggest barrier to the acknowledgment of privilege [or racism] is shame. You have to reach out with love and curiosity… [but] speak truth to bullsh*t. Also, be civil when you’re doing it.”
I admit that, in my reactive state, I unfriended those who have posted things that I judge as racist or bigoted. Instead of engaging them in an honest dialog, with the desire to create some real understanding between us and to learn another perspective, I’ve chosen the cowardly (and passive-aggressive) approach to avoid a potentially ugly conflict.
This stops today.
I apologize for the following vocabulary lesson, but since I was mostly unfamiliar with the proper definition of these terms and how I have participated, consciously or unconsciously, in their application, I thought some of you might also be unaware of their definitions.
Covert racism is defined as: “A form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often evasive or seemingly passive methods. Covert, racially-biased decisions are often hidden or rationalized with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously. Sometimes, it originates instead in discrimination against poorer segments that simply happens to disproportionately affect individuals by race.”
The definition of micro-aggression is: “A term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.”
I have never considered myself racist or a bigot. I have many friends from all walks of life. I’ve prided myself on being open-minded and non-judgemental of people from all races, religions, and cultures. But rather than hide behind this smug attitude, I feel compelled to peel back the layers and look for the truth, however painful this process might be.
Rather than tout the ubiquitous attitude of being “color-blind,” I seek to acknowledge and celebrate the differences instead of pretending I don’t notice them. After all, don’t differences make the world more interesting? How boring it would be if we were all exactly the same.
I want to bring my awareness to where I hold subconscious racist and bigoted views and where my white privilege has benefitted me. “Sitting in the yuck,” as Nicole Cameron says. Let me be clear here; I do not seek your validation of my existence as a non-racist or bigoted person. I truly wish to uncover the nature of my views and where I may have unknowingly caused harm because of them. I don’t wish to burden anyone by asking them to school me on racism and bigotry.
However, I do hope that some of you might be willing to take the time to show me what perhaps I can’t see for myself because of my “white veil.” I also hope that any constructive criticism you may wish to offer is made with the intention to be helpful and a little compassionate. It’s certainly not my aim to offend anyone, but merely an aspiration to become more aware. Only from this place of awareness do I stand any chance of making lasting changes in my heart and mind and then maybe in the hearts and minds of others. As Brené Brown also says, “…Perhaps a little hypothesis of generosity,” for which I would be truly grateful.
Below are several links to some interesting and thought-provoking articles I have found in the course of my research.
Please comment below with any additional articles, videos, podcasts, and books that you have found informative and helpful.
My goal is to heighten my curiosity and awareness by asking the uncomfortable questions. I hope you’ll join me in this quest or allow me to join you in yours.
“Right now, me saying ‘white people,’ as if our race had meaning, and as if I could know anything about somebody just because they’re white, will cause a lot of white people to erupt in defensiveness. And I think of it as a kind of weaponized defensiveness. Weaponized tears. Weaponized hurt feelings. And in that way, I think white fragility actually functions as a kind of white racial bullying.” ~ Robin DiAngelo
Watch an anti-racism hour with Jane Elliott talking with Waylon Lewis of Elephant here.