Not My Problem? Not Your Problem?

privilege

I’ve just finished reading a blog post about race.

Wait! Before you roll your eyes and move along to something else you’d rather read, I have a confession to make.

I read articles and blog posts every day about race. That’s not my confession, but I just need to frame my admission so you understand the full effect.

As a white parent of a black child and a member of humanity, I take my responsibilities to her and them very seriously. I do whatever I can to learn as much as I can about racism and to understand what being black is “really” like, if there is such an explanation.

I cannot give my daughter “blackness” (I apologize if that term offends some) because I know nothing about being a person of colour and how those differences play out in my daily existence. I’ve come to feel that I don’t just owe my daughter my support and understanding; I owe it to all of the men and women who deal with racism. So I read and learn. I keep my mind and my heart open.

When this particular blog post was shared in a trans-racial adoptive families group that I belong to, I opened it with the same curiosity and interest I do with most articles about race.

Except this one was different.

Not in the content – oh no. Sadly, I’ve read many posts about micro-aggressions similar to this one, and even worse, more overt racist words and actions.

Nor was the writing or the author different than others I’ve read. Some posts are angry, outraged bursts of indignation – as they should be. Some posts are sad, quiet, introspective pleadings for change – also as they should be.

This post was different because it caused me to have an epiphany:

Twenty years ago, I would not have understood what the problem was in the situation that the man encountered at the cafe. I might not have even read the post, but if I had, I certainly would have dismissed it with a casual “that’s HIS interpretation of what happened” in the same dismissive way you invalidate your partner’s feelings during a fight by saying “Well, that’s YOUR opinion!” AND I STILL WOULD NOT HAVE CALLED MYSELF RACIST. 

That’s called white privilege, for those who don’t recognize it. It’s not something I’m proud of, yet society raises most white people with a blanket of blindness to their own privilege and ignorance. I still have so much to learn and understand.

Now, I share this confession with you not because I’m looking to pat myself on the back in a “look how far I’ve come in my racial awareness” way, but because after I finished reading the post, I realized that so many other people will read it and have the same reaction that I would have had 20 years ago. Some of them even left comments saying so.

So what is my goal here?

I guess if I can encourage even ONE person to look at their own responses and recognize their own white privilege and see past it to validate someone else’s experience, even if they have never experienced something like it themselves, I’ve accomplished something.

Go ahead and laugh. Mock me, if you want. I still won’t give up on the concept that one day, hopefully in my daughter’s lifetime, we will live in a world where people are not judged by race, gender or sexual orientation.

“I don’t want to become a hashtag.”

This line from the post slayed me.

How many white people worry about that?

Awareness is the first step towards change.

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3 thoughts on “Not My Problem? Not Your Problem?

  1. I really love this post.

    I won’t get into the particulars, but recently when all the civil unrest – for lack of an apt phrase – was happening in Ferguson, I posted a very simple photo of Nelson Mandela to my blog. I had nothing to say that could help, but I felt so sad and sorry for the parents of a lost child and the struggle everyday in a country that calls itself free (and I am not a delusional Canadian who thinks that it is “just” an “American” problem. It isn’t. I know. It’s a people problem and we ALL should know.) so along with the photo I simply wrote “I have no words. I am sorry.” as the title.

    It reflected what I was hoping to convey and some very nice, understanding, people let me know it was a good choice.

    Then there was one comment on my blog’s Facebook page, under that shared post, that irked me so much I couldn’t (and still haven’t been able to) respond. The commenter (who shall remain nameless), had written, “Why? What have you got to be sorry for?” (or something very close to that) and I think your post, here, would be my perfect response.

    Thank you for writing this.

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. It’s not a negative judgement to say that most white people don’t even realize their own white privilege and microagressions. I just want to open eyes and ears, even if it is a slow process. I’m so glad that you get it – hopefully one day, more people will better understand and be more sensitive. Keep fighting the good fight, my friend! xo

  3. Pingback: Why #OscarsSoWhite Is More Than Just a Hashtag In My Home | my papaya jambalaya

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