Have you ever experienced racism?
I am a young white female. I’ve never directly experienced racism, but my family has.
My Latinos are technically white. They are white when you check the box on a piece of paper. There isn’t a brown option. Though they’re “white,” brown people still experience racism because of their ethnicity.
When I am out with my family, we sometimes get judgemental stares. People really dislike seeing mixed families. People assume Javier’s legal status. People assume that we live on food stamps – we don’t, but props to you for doing what you need to do to feed your family. One time, Javier got yelled at for walking at the edge of some old white man’s lawn because it was a busy street with no sidewalk. He has been told to shred his driver’s license because the person said it wasn’t real. He’s been told to “go back where he came from” by a middle aged man at the store. Cashiers check his bills with the pen, but they don’t do that to me.
And as hurtful as any of those scenarios were at the time, none of it can compare to what happened to George Floyd. What our black brothers and sisters go through every day is horrific.
I’ve been guilty of it, too. I’ve heightened my sense of awareness when a black man was following me. I’ve seen black people walking in the alley and my brain perceived it as “suspicious” automatically. And yes, I’ve done it for white people too, but its less often. And I consider myself not racist.
The problem is that society is still ingrained with this image of black people and ethnic people, especially men, being thugs. Its not true that all black males are thugs out to steal your handbag, but we have long been taught it to be a stereotype. From movies, to our ancestors racist tendencies, to news stories, we have had this deep-seated idea fed to us over generations. White supremacy is all the rage, feeding fuel to the fire that is racism.
Now we know better, so we need to do better. It is time to change. We each have a duty to our fellow humans to be better. We must untrain ourselves. We need to make a conscious effort to stop ourselves from perceiving blacks as bad/suspicious/threatening. When you feel that way, ask yourself what it is about the situation that is making you have that feeling. If the only reason is because they’re black, make a mental effort to stop that. Ask yourself in that moment, “how would I perceive this situation if they were white?” If it is any different, you need to double check yourself and make a point to change that perception. And before you say it, this is obviously for situations that are not dire. If they aren’t coming at you or someone else with a weapon, you have a little bit of time to think.
We also need to stand up when we see injustice and racism. Don’t be afraid to call it out, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Can you even fathom how uncomfortable it is to be in a position where you’re being accused of being up to no good, even if you were just minding your own business? Hard topics are uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. But it’s NECESSARY. Use your privilege to fight racism at it’s core and eradicate it.
If you saw someone struggling to swim in a body of water, would you ask them how to help? Or would you jump in or throw them a life raft?
Longtime civil rights activist and scholar Angela Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist — we must be anti-racist.”