It actually makes me sick to my stomach to write that three word sentence. I am racist. The same way I’ve been sick to my stomach thinking about whether or not I need to “go there” on this platform. But that’s my privilege, and I’m working on it. I recognize that I may lose followers over this, and I also recognize that my definition of racism may be different than yours. And I also haven’t ‘held’ this definition of ‘racism’ and ‘being racist’ all my life. Actually not until recently, and that’s the sickening irony of it. In fact, if you asked me if I was ‘racist’ a year or so ago, I would have replied no, without a doubt. If you called me racist a year or so ago, I would have probably gotten defensive and angry. Because I am white, never have I ever had to truly worry about understanding racism. Because I am white, never have I ever had to truly worry about my own safety doing completely mundane things. Because I am white, never have I ever had to face the fact that my life is opportunistically and systemically different in a lesser sense than those who have skin different than mine. Because I am white, I am sitting here worrying about losing followers or “going there”…small potatoes compared to those who are worried about losing their life simply because of the color of their skin.
I’ve been working on myself over this past year, doing what I can to understand my privilege, doing what I can to understand and reflect on my life experiences thus far, and most importantly doing what I can to empathize with (I could never say “understand” – I am white – I will never understand what it’s like to be a person of color) and become an ally for people of color as they continue to face unfathomable inequities, injustices, and racism – institutional, systemic, covert, and overt, and everything in between.
I’m not here to preach. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves on this matter and determine where we stand. But I do feel a responsibility to share where I stand, given the public nature of this platform as well as as the public nature of my profession. (Please note, this is not about politics. Groups, people, parties, organizations, and camps aside, this is social justice.)
Here are my most pivotal realizations of the past year — I know there will be more to come.
- I have reaped the benefits of being white in our society since my creation. And with that whiteness has come a life full of privilege, most of the time unbeknownst to me or unrecognized by me. While I like to think that my opportunities and successes in life were a result of my own hard work, I also recognize that my peers of color had to work that much harder to achieve the same level of opportunity and success as me simply because they started on a different playing field. I had a head start from birth, simply because of the color of my skin.
- I am filled with implicit biases, and I always will be. It is not about being a perfect person, it is about continuously acknowledging and being open to recognizing my own biases, and making decisions accordingly. In fact, some of those implicit biases probably show in this post, without me even realizing it. It is on me to call myself out or in when I have done or said something biased, and it is on you to call me out or in when I have done or said something biased.
- I have done, said, witnessed, and engaged in biased/racist things in my past. See the thing is, I can count on one hand the number of times someone has called me out on doing, saying, witnessing, or engaging in something biased or racist. But for each of those times I’ve actually been called out, I’ve probably done, said, witnessed, or engaged in biased/racist things a thousand more times. And more importantly, I am grateful for the times I actually have been called out because it forced me to grow and reflect.
- It’s not about intent. In the few instances I mentioned above when someone actually called me out, I cringe thinking about the follow-up conversations I’ve had with the people who called me out. In all cases, I apologized for the offense but unintentionally justified it by trying to explain it away saying it was never my intention to cause offense or harm. Intention doesn’t justify an action, it doesn’t explain it either. I have coached myself to not default to ‘intention’ when someone calls me out. Instead, I now say, “Please tell me more about what you noticed, I need to learn from it.”
- Calling in is easier for me right now than calling out. I’ve always been the type to avoid conflict. I don’t like it. So if someone else said or did something that was offensive to me or to others, especially in regards to minority groups (age, class, sex, gender, race, religion, etc.), I would either freeze (not know what to do), ignore it, or remove/avoid it. Now, I realize that doesn’t cut it. Calling in has been my middle ground. Calling in, or when you seek conversation and an opportunity for growth and discussion with an individual who has said something hurtful or oppressive, fits my personality because it can be done in private, has an inquiry approach, with the end result usually being educational and reflective. I find that many people respond well to being called in. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of times when calling out, or letting someone know their comment was hurtful or oppressive right then and there regardless of setting, are warranted and needed. I hope to get to the point where I feel confident and comfortable doing that when it is needed. But I am honest, and I am not there quite yet.
- I am committed to being an ally. An ally is someone who uses their privilege to advocate on behalf of someone else or another group who doesn’t hold that same privilege. I don’t feel confident on all stages and in all walks of life. But my role and my work as an educator and as a mom has been my vehicle to allyship. And it is in this arena I feel like I can currently make the biggest difference, so that’s where my efforts lie.
- This is a lifelong journey. I won’t all of a sudden be “not racist”. There is no such thing. So rather than fending off or denying my bias (and more specifically my racism), I will work to recognize it actively each and every day, to educate myself on it, to advocate for others, to do what I believe in, and to share that journey with you, if you’re choosing to be here for it.
If you’re interested in understanding my perspective a bit more, there have been three texts that have been revolutionary in my journey. I encourage you to read them, too:
I’m humbled if you decide to stick around despite my vulnerabilities. I’m ok if you decide I am not for you. I’m even more humbled if you completely disagree with me and everything I said, and still decide to stick around. ❤