I Need to Talk About Race

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t spent a lot of time on this blog focusing on race and racial issues. There are many reasons for that: I don’t want to speak over people of color, I’m afraid of backlash, I don’t feel I have anything to add to the conversation, I don’t know what to say, I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing…it’s easy to make excuses to not talk about race and racism.  The problem with this is that I as a white person need to make race my issue. I cannot leave that issue for the people it affects because that is simply immoral and cruel. In addition, it is too easy for me as a white individual to ignore race and to not view my experiences as “racial experiences”, to see my experiences as the default, and to ignore the simple privileges in my life.

I want to hear what people of color say, but just listening is not enough. I have to be willing to call others out, to use my own voice to say what needs to be said, and to explore the things that have put me into the position that I’m in right now. It’s easy to say “it’s not my fight”, or “I’m more interested in gender issues”, but that’s a cop out. Everyone needs to be able to talk about race and do it openly. And since I have a more privileged position than many people of color I really need to be willing to step up and use that privilege.

So I’m going to be honest: because I grew up in a racist and privileged system, I have internalized myths that continue the system of privilege and oppression. I benefit from my race. I grew up quintessentially white, bathed in a white culture that benefits me every day. These are not things I like about myself, and they are things that I am actively working to eradicate in my mind, but they influence my behaviors and they influence my life.

I write about many of my experiences as if they are the default or the norm. They are not. My experience of being a woman, my experience of an eating disorder, my experience of depression: these things cannot be universalized. My normal is not the normal of many people and I cannot present it that way.

As part of my attempt to be a good ally I want to be able to call myself out on the moments when I don’t do a good job, and remind myself of the words of people of color that I need to learn from. I need to talk about race. I need to talk about what I’m doing wrong and what I think I might be doing well, and what the people I think I’m an ally to are saying. By not talking about race, I am simply furthering the myth that race doesn’t affect white people, that we are raceless, that we are the default. That is unacceptable.

So I am making a commitment to writing more about race and writing more about what I can do in my life to make improvements around race. For the moment I’d like to offer some suggested reading from people who are a lot smarter about race than I am.

1. Anything by Suey Park, particularly surrounding #NotYourAsianSidekick

2. Trudy. Oh man Trudy.

3. Some great stuff on higher ed and race (check out the rest of Tressie’s posts on the subject while you’re at it)

4. If you don’t understand why black boys don’t trust the cops, read this.

5. Please spend some time poking around the Crunk Feminist Collective because they are lovely.

There are absolutely more resources out there, but that’s a good place to start generally. More to come.


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