In honor of Black History Month, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on race issues, as a Caucasian woman. Given the news stories regarding race, especially since the church shooting in South Carolina this past summer, the topic of race and the division it causes weighs heavily on my mind.
Also, it’s not exactly hard to encounter because of where in live in Central Virginia, and having grown up in Southwest Virginia. And even though I escaped that way of thinking, I was raised to be racist by a fairly racist father. We butt heads a lot of times over the issues since I refuse to be prejudiced against the African American community.
Since I’ve began delving deeper into my thoughts on the matter; I’ve educated myself, I’ve become more vocal about my support for my black neighbors, colleagues, friends, loved ones, and in general, fellow human beings. I have been confronted, more than once, with a question that irks me even still: “These issues don’t even affect you, so why do you care so much?” If this isn’t the typical mindset of the residents of the selfish, entitled era, then I don’t know what is.
Instead of getting mad and spewing a bunch of expletives about why that question is ignorant (and it is), I would like to take the time to elaborate why, exactly, I do care, and how it does affect me.
First of all, let’s start with stereotyping. I sincerely doubt that there is one person out there who hasn’t been stereotyped, at least one point in their lives. Those who are monetarily well-off are seen as frivolous and selfish sharks who will do whatever it takes to acquire more money and will lord it over everyone else.
Those who happen to like wearing the color black, whether within a subculture or not, are regarded as dark, brooding Satan worshipers that people’s kids shouldn’t be around.
Everyone from the LGBT community is marked as depraved as sex-crazed maniacs, with no self-control, bent on seeking out and “recruiting” straight people to “turn” them.
People who are less fortunate, whether homeless are not, get kicked while down, and called worthless drains on society, just looking for free handouts, as they ‘don’t want to work,’ because they’re lazy.
People of Hispanic descent, even if they’re from the United States, are labeled as job-stealing illegals, who “need to learn English or GTFO.” If at any point, reading this paragraph, you got a little riled up, and thought that these were a bunch of overgeneralizing stereotypes, then congratulations: now you get it.
If you or anyone you know have been hit with these, and any other ridiculous stereotype because of who they are, and it irks you, then think about how the African American community must feel. Whenever thoughtless individuals regard black people as uncivilized, ghetto, law-breaking, system-working thugs who have no regard for the lives of white people – especially the the police – they’re doing the same thing that I mentioned above.
But when it comes to black people speaking up against these dismissive stereotypes, they are met with even more contempt, hearing things like, “Well, maybe if they didn’t act that way, then no one would think that about them.” How would anyone else who was stereotyped in another way like to hear the same thing, about who they are? They’d pitch a fit, and refuse to let the stereotypers get away with it. Why should black people have to do the same thing, just because of the color of their skin? So, right off, I care about how black people are treated, because the sterotyping and being made to feel lesser than we are, could happen to anyone without cause or reason. So, when a blind eye is turned to black people being treated poorly, in the name of racism, those being racist might as well just be saying, “Shit happens. Get over it.”
That is until their fragile little egos get bruised. Then, all of a sudden, it’s the end of the world.
Secondly, let me put it this way: If you had a friend or loved one who was being abused, either verbally or physically, and you heard or saw it happening, what would you do?
If you see yourself as a supposedly good person, be honest, you would probably interject verbally and/or step into the physical fight, to save your friend or loved one. Why should it be an exception if my friend or loved one is black? When my friends are hurting, I feel that hurt too, because I care about my them deeply. I’m also someone who wants to right the wrongs that she sees in life. I want to give love and hope to those who need it. I want to make my loved ones feel like the wonderful people that they are. So, I care about how black people are treated, because I love and care about my black friends, and it does affect me, because when they hurt, I hurt.
Furthermore, going hand-in-hand with the overgeneralizing and stereotyping thing, I have to say that I am sick and tired of an entirety of a community being blamed for the horrible actions of a few. The same people who have asked me why I care about how black people are treated, as it doesn’t affect me, have also said stuff like, “So, what if a black person shoots and kills one of your loved ones? Are you still going to like the black community then?”
My response is, yes, of course I will. Just as the entire religion of Islam isn’t to be blamed for the actions of the 9/11 terrorists or currently, ISIL, I would not blame the entire black community for my loved one being shot and killed by someone who happened to be black. I will admit that blaming an entire people group for the actions of some morons from it, has been something I’ve struggled with before.
Examining Our Own Past
I will openly admit that, before anyone calls me on it. I have a deep, tortured, former relationship with Christianity, and for the longest time, I deemed anyone associated with it judgmental and untrustworthy. Over time, I’ve learned that that’s not true. While we still have our differences, I know several Christians that aren’t out to get me or anyone. Just like not every black person is angry, white-hating, and wanting to harm white people. So I care about black people being treated poorly, because I know that they’re not all to be blamed for those from their community, that do horrible and violent things. Chances are, they’re just as outraged by those things.
These are just a few of the reasons why I care about how African Americans are treated. I could go on and list many, many more, but these are the key reasons. Now, of course, I’ve been told, “Hey, you’re white, so you’ll never know how they actually feel.” Yes, that may be true. I won’t truly, truly know, because I was born with white skin. I acknowledge that while I don’t act awfully with it, I have white privilege.
If you’re white, you can use your white privilege for good or for evil… or just be apathetic (which, to me, is selfish). What I am trying to convey here is that I care and want to use my white privilege for good. I’m not looking to be anyone’s “white savior.” I wasn’t in the movie, The Blind Side. But what I do want to do with my white privilege, is be a voice for those whom are often silenced, because of the bigotry. I want people to realize that racism, no matter how “casual” – even using the N-word “not in that context” – is not okay. It is damaging and hurtful.
I want to use my voice to remind others that it’s the year 2016, and that we should be more evolved as a society. And as high and lofty as it might sound, I want people to know that if it were really a collective societal effort, that we could end racism. Because in the end, we’re all just human beings, and no matter what we look like on the outside, when we leave this earth, our skeletons all look the same.
That, my dear readers, is why I, as a white woman, care about equal rights and respect for black people–because it does affect me. It affects all of us, whether you realize it or not. Happy Black History Month.