I didn’t realize that racism existed within my own family until I introduced them to my first boyfriend . They always said they weren’t racist. They said that there were really nice black people everywhere. They ‘had black friends’. They said that the ‘N’ word was only used for ‘bad black people.’ In Kindergarten, my teacher said something along the lines of “skin color doesn’t matter… treat others the way you would want to be treated.” I truly believed her words and trusted her, so I listened. A few of my best friends growing up were black. It never seemed to be a problem for me or anyone else that I knew at the time.
However, when I introduced my boyfriend to my family, they were pissed. I was told I could never see him again and that my grandpa was probably “rolling in his grave because I was dating a black guy.” I was only 14 years old and so confused. I had believed their words before. I didn’t think liking him was bad. He was a really great guy and loved by everyone at school. I know they SAID they weren’t racist. Why were they so upset? My world was turned upside down and it forever changed how I would perceive my family and the world.
As I left home and moved out of the mid-west and into the west coast, I learned pretty quickly how naive and uneducated I was at the time. I grew up in a predominately white suburban area. During college, I was the minority at my school. Through experience on campus and friends I made along the way, I learned more about people of different races. I really was clueless prior to college. I continued to date men of different races and cultural backgrounds, learning even more. The night I met my husband I made a racist joke that completely fell flat in a room full of strangers who only saw me as a girl with white privilege telling a stupid joke. Luckily for me, my husband used it to guilt me as a joke for 45 minutes before finally asking me to get coffee with him. He didn’t think my joke was funny either, but I guess he saw me beyond ‘jokes’.
After marrying my husband, who is Asian American, and being welcomed into his family with open arms and hearts, I finally began to really see racism from the other side. I began to see how it was often used against my husband and his family. I could see how my current last name now threw people off. I could see how my own family back home still had a lot of learning to do, as my own mother thought my husband was an ‘illegal’ simply because my mother-in-law wasn’t born here and escaped a war-torn country by boat to get here. She was concerned someone would be knocking on our door soon because of the political climate at the time. My husband was born here and all of his family are citizens as well.
Though I tried to explain things like that to my own family they, like so many others, refuse to listen and learn. I tried explaining in every way possible for years, even years before I was married. It seems some people have such inherited distrust with “other people” that they CHOOSE to live in fear, ignorance and stay uneducated. They CHOOSE to live in their white suburban bubble. And that’s part of the problem, you cant change people if they don’t want to change. You can’t teach someone that doesn’t want to learn. So, what do you do?
Well, first I share my story and the ignorance I was born into and raised on to be transparent and say I am sorry. I share, so it is exposed. I share this so I can say it is wrong. I share so others will share too. I share because I know my story isn’t much different from the kids I grew up with. And I share because we all need to make big changes.
My heart has been heavy for a long time for our black brothers and sisters. I will admit that I have misunderstood them for a very long time. However, I have learned so much over the last decade, but I still have so much more to learn. In the recent events with Ahmaud, Breonna and George, I believe everyone is being faced with the same questions. Do you agree this is wrong? And what are you willing to do about it? These questions are especially important for my white friends. Our black friends have been screaming, crying, grieving and protesting for change for a long time. It hasn’t worked and it’s not up to them to change how others view and treat them. It’s up to me. It’s up to you. Change starts within.
I am committed to making real change to help my brothers and sisters. This current climate of treatment for the black community can no longer go on. It has to stop. It will only stop when we take ACTION. I have included a list of ways we can help make change, real change. Some of them may seem small, but small steps turn into big change. I have taken these steps myself and encourage you to do the same. And if all of us would commit to taking these small steps, I truly believe we will see real change.
No one said it would be easy. I can promise, it’s probably going to feel uncomfortable. Racism is uncomfortable and so is confronting it head on. At this point, do you feel comfortable with silence as innocent men and women are murdered in the streets for color of their skin? Do you? I don’t! Our white privilege can be used for greater good. Why do we have a voice if we aren’t willing to use it? I no longer want to feel guilty for my privileges, as I have for a long time now, but instead I want to use them for a purpose. I can’t change my family or past mistakes of the generations before me but I can change my ways and help to raise the next generation to know better and to do better. And I hope you will too.
Sign the petitions- https://www.justiceforbigfloyd.com/#petition https://www.runwithmaud.com/#petition Text JUSTICE to 668366 and provide your Zip code. Read- White Fragility- Robin DiAngelo Me and White Supremacy- Layla F. Saad Women, Race & Class- Angela Y. Davis So You Want to Talk About Race- Ijeoma Oulo Donate- NCAAP Defense Legal Fund- Legal Organization for fighting racial injustice The American Civil Liberties Union- Provides legal assistance where civil liberties are at risk Fair Fight- ensures fair elections and fights voter suppression