As a white woman trying to unlearn the racism in me, I have to admit… I’m more confused than ever.
I began this journey knowing I wasn’t racist because I value all human life. Period. I don’t hate and I don’t discriminate. Then, I learned more. And I realized, like many of us, that racism is so much deeper than that. It involves systemic injustices that I’ve been silent about. It involves prejudices so deeply rooted by my education that I didn’t even realize I had them.
Some White Americans, like myself, have leaned into the process of discomfort and examined their own racism and privilege. As I’ve done this I’ve become increasingly confused and bombarded with information from both sides.
I am trying step by step to educate myself and my family. I’m doing the work every single day. And, as I’ve done the work, I have found a great divide in the white community. Which, I expected.
What I didn’t expect however and what is starting to make me feel lost in what is right or wrong, is the divide in the Black community.
I have filled my media intake with Black voices from all over the board. Conservative, liberal, queer, straight, religious, atheist, it doesn’t matter. I am listening.
As I’ve combed through social media accounts run by Black men and women, I’ve found that no one is agreeing on any of this. And sadly, some are just using their voice to add contention instead of clarity.
As I listen, I hear one Black voice telling me about mass incarceration and a Police system designed to oppress the Black community. Then, I listen to the next Black voice, and he is telling me that systemic racism is a fallacy, it’s not real and that his Black brothers need to stop perpetuating the lie.
I’m listening to Black mothers talk about White Saviorism and how White women need to quiet down and not share their experiences of racism while raising Black children. Then, the next voice, a Black adoption specialist, talking about how we throw the term White Saviorism around like everyone is doing it when in actuality if it’s even present in the adoption system at all, is minuscule. Meanwhile, Black children with White parents are being told their experiences are not as real as someone else’s because of the color of their parent’s skin.
I had a woman on social media tell me this week that White parents with black children can’t experience racism… I was so confused. I thought racism was discrimination based on the color of one’s skin. Wouldn't these children experience racism, possibly in a different way, than those with black parents? And wouldn’t possibly, the White parents experience the pain of that racism on behalf of their children? Or possibly be victims of it themselves when other white families discriminate against them for having Black children?
This sweet woman, who adopted two Black children is accused of doing it for her personal gain? Should she have, seeing the color of the children’s skin, decided not to adopt them?
Here’s the thing. We need to give people a break. On both sides of this divide. We need to let people work through this mess whether they’re Black or they’re White. We need to seek to understand each other. This goes for me as a White person trying to understand the divide in the Black community, and it goes for the Black person as they try to sift through what we as White people are trying to do.
Because believe it or not, many of us sincerely are trying our best. We are sitting at our dinner table with our fourteen-year-old sons and explaining to them the privileges they have because of the color of their skin. How they innately trust police officers and feel no fear when one stops them on their walk home from the coffee shop in a hoodie.
We are discussing how we can better support Black businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists. We’re signing petitions, calling our local authorities, and using whatever platforms we have to fight for change.
People are angry, and they should be. The death of George Floyd was the tipping point for many Black Americans. The point in which everything finally just became too much.
It was the tipping point for many white Americans too. And yes, it came way too late. I see that and I understand that. The fights we’re fighting in 2020 should already be won. But they aren’t. And I fear they won’t be won until we can close the divides in our communities.
Black and White alike, we have to come together. Quit pointing fingers, nit-picking social media posts, and things that are done and said in the wrong way on Instagram.
We’ve heard, “the only wrong thing to say is nothing.” Then, when we say something we get bombarded with ‘Oh no, not that- don’t say that.’ Don’t use your platform that way, don’t post that thing, don’t repost that person. Don’t don’t don’t.
I don’t have the answers to all the questions, but I do know this. There is a problem with racism in our country. There are racists in our country. And until those of us who are trying to close the divide can reach out a hand and bridge the gap standing between those that aren't trying nothing is going to get done.
Trying to reason with unreasonable people is hard. It’s kind of like fighting with a toddler. They’re inconsolable. They’re irrational. They are not understanding plain English. If the fight with the toddler is to be diffused, the mature adult is going to have to be the one that makes it happen.
You, the one admitting there is a problem and trying to fix it, are the grown adult in this situation. You’re going to have to keep your cool. You’re going to have to take several deep breaths while your counterpart throws their fit. If you lose your mind too, the problem won’t get solved.
Don’t bite the fingers off of the people who are trying, in their imperfections, to extend their hand over to your side of the divide.
I know this isn’t fair and it’s not easy. But it must be done.