White People, This is On Us

I’m a white, middle class, stay at home mom to three young children. My life is busy, and many times, chaotic. There are constant messes, activity schedules, and exhaustion. Racial issues don’t directly affect me and my family, so it would be easy to dismiss this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia and carry on with life as usual. But I don’t want to raise my children in a country where white supremacists marching in the streets is normal, or in any way acceptable. I want them to read about Nazis in their history books, not on their social media feeds. I’ve also come to realize that when I deliberately choose to turn away from injustice and do nothing to stop it, I’m partly to blame for these monsters feeling so emboldened.

Like so many Americans, I was horrified seeing the images and listening to the white supremacist rhetoric coming out of Charlottesville. And also like so many of my fellow white Americans, I also felt defensive and was tempted to, along with denouncing the behavior of the Alt-Right Nazi protestors, become defensive and completely separate myself from them. I really, really want to say that they are a fringe group, and don’t represent me, my community and my culture.

But I can’t say that.

And I really want to excuse myself from this issue, and believe that I don’t have any responsibility in perpetuating white supremacy in my country.

But I can’t do that.

No, I don’t know any actual Nazis. I don’t have any friends that condone the behavior or hate speech of white supremacists, although I have plenty that have remained silent. And plenty of times, I have remained silent too. I have made a conscious effort in recent years to pay attention and speak out against injustice when I see it. But I haven’t done nearly enough.

I’ve let offhand racist comments slide without saying anything. Because conflict makes me uncomfortable.

I’m surrounded by (and participated in) the mindset that there are schools in our district (with the same standards, and same curriculum) that just aren’t acceptable, but others are the best of the best. Guess which ones have more white kids?

All the churches I’ve attended in my lifetime have been overwhelmingly white. I grew up with images of Jesus as a white man with long, light brown hair, and this is how I picture Jesus in my mind, even today.

I’m guilty of making snap judgments of people based simply on their race and appearance.

Until recently, I’ve never consciously thought about my race, and all the privilege it affords me. I’ve learned that white privilege doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle, or have to work hard in life. It means I won’t have to face systemic oppression and additional obstacles due to the color of my skin. My children’s toys, television shows, books, teachers, and elected government officials overwhelmingly represent their race, and they probably won’t ever question that without deliberate conversations. I benefit from racism, and that’s a really sobering reality to face. 

Although I absolutely believe that the election of Donald Trump has encouraged the rise of these hate groups, racism isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not a liberal vs. conservative debate. It’s a problem with humanity. And the problem isn’t going to fix itself, and people of color can’t fix it themselves. It’s going to have to be white people like me. And like you. We have to use our voices and lives to denounce both Nazis marching in the street with torches, and casual racist jokes around our dinner tables. We have to hold our elected leaders accountable, insisting that they specifically denounce white supremacy by name, even if it costs them votes. We have to do things and have conversations that make us uncomfortable. All of us are responsible for allowing white supremacy to seep into our homes, our schools, and our churches. And if we don’t stop it, it won’t stop. This is on us, white people, and we must do better.

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