Even if you haven’t ever met me, you likely assumed that. Most of us here in the middle of the rectangular states are. However, if I slipped out of my skin, you wouldn’t have any idea of what color I was. I would simply be human.
But, my skin is white. And that provides me with some definite advantages that those of different hues don’t just get handed to them. For example, I don’t have to be concerned that if I loiter a bit while shopping it will raise suspicion that I’m shoplifting. My friend, Eric, does have to be aware of this and tries to be focused and deliberate, getting in and out quickly, when shopping. Eric is black.
I’m white. Which means when I get pulled over for a broken taillight I’m concerned about the fine that will likely be a result of my negligence. My friend, Will, knows as soon as he sees the flashing red lights that anything interpreted as a wrong move, word or expression could be disastrous for him, possibly even resulting in death. Will is black.
I’m white so I have no idea what it’s like to send a son, any child, out into the world – to school, to play, to jog, or shop – and worry that they might not make it back home. My friend, Kimtri, tells me that every time her 12-year-old son leaves the house they make sure to hug and tell each other “I love you.” I imagine many mothers send off sons with that reminder, but Kimtri does it because she’s black and she fears someone will determine her son’s skin color makes him “less than” or someone to fear.
I’m white. I’ve always been white and I grew up in a community and culture that was nearly exclusively so. It wasn’t until college that my world began to enlarge as it became more diverse. Honestly, at first, I wasn’t that comfortable being around people different than me. But when I took the time to get to know those from different backgrounds and cultures, and who were different colors, I quickly realized where we come from and the color of our outer covering has nothing to do with our value or our humanity. On the inside the same blood flows through the same human tissue.
But, I’m white. And because of that I now understand that I can never fully know what the lived experience of being Black, or any other color, is like. However, white as I am, that does not mean that I can’t learn more about the racism that, despite our past efforts, is still rampant in this country.
I’m white but the history of this nation was built, in large part, on the backs of enslaved black human beings. So it isn’t surprising there remains remnants of prejudice, bias and even the evil toxicity of white supremacy. But we have more than remnants. It appears we have large swaths of racism still running rampant. Despite the progress we may have made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, we never had the hard conversations. Instead, we buried our history, or clung tightly to the white wash of it, never bothering to correct it so generations behind us might learn the truth. And by burying whatever residual racism and misunderstanding that lingered, we ended up planting its seeds so more grew. Looks like we may have a bumper crop, huh?
I’m white and it’s time. It’s time we looked at this country, and ourselves, had the difficult, often heart-wrenching conversations about race and racism and began to understand, no matter the color of our outer wrapping, we want the same things – to feel safe, to find comfort, to be valued, to love and be loved.
I’m white and I pledge to learn more about the black experience, how racism harms those who have been marginalized and prevented from the freedoms, justice and equality that I often take for granted. I’m white but I am determined to be a better ally. I’m white, but my eyes and ears are open and I’m ready to be shown and to listen to what it’s like to live as a person of color. I’m white but I will show up however I can. If I can help counter, in even the smallest way, the hatred and violence against those seen as “other” or “less than” that still lives in this country, then I will and I must.
I’m white, but, please, color me human.
Note: Here are a couple of links that have helpful information on how we can all educate ourselves about racism and how we might better understand the experience of living as a person of color.
This is a link to Ibram X. Kendi’s recommended reading list. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/books/review/antiracist-reading-list-ibram-x-kendi.html?fbclid=IwAR1o4s5SNt0z8ja_RoJV1OssI96FZNo2d8VE63gjbDUzUijqCh0prhr3xSI
And here’s an excellent organization that, among other things, offers lists of everything from recommended films to Instagram accounts to follow: https://fortune.com/2020/06/05/antiracist-books-donations-black-owned-businesses-resources/