Wrestling with racism
To the editor:
We are in the midst of a racially uncomfortable time. “Stay at home” has brought more opportunity for podcasts and reading about racism. Racial bias was ingrained in my upbringing, and continues in our culture. Political and economic systems offer advantages to me that are not available to people of color.
My attitudes and beliefs were formed by white lenses in my family, peers, movie portrayals, newscasts, and history books, in which whites were depicted as the heroes. I still carry many boyhood attitudes and prejudices. Studies of “implicit bias” teach that my brain responds with deeply-ingrained patterns of behavior faster than my conscious ideals can counter.
Throughout my life I have had advantages that people of color do not have. I had ready access to student loans. I have been able to walk in any neighborhood without being seen as a threat. I received good home loans at a fair interest rate. I have not been stopped by security guards questioning whether I belong in a building, nor confused with the hired help at a banquet. All traffic stops became only warnings. I have not had to think about my race living in this community.
Although examining racism makes me uncomfortable, I need to resist the urge to defend myself, as my denials and defense mechanisms conceal the work that I still need to do. Because I am immersed in “whiteness” I need to hold the tension and discomfort, sitting with it long enough to hear… receiving each insight with a grace which transforms how I live, and reveals what I can do to lessen racism in our society.
Although many good laws have been passed, the vote for those laws was not unanimous, and resistance to the principles within those laws continues at every level of government and within our economy. We aspire to “Liberty and Justice for all,” treating people of all races equally, and “1 person 1 vote.” But in reality, we fall far short of that ideal, and well-financed efforts are in place to deny basic rights to people of color.
I realize that I’m very much a beginner in understanding the complex issues of race, and have much to learn. I need to listen carefully… openly… with curiosity… and with empathy. Imagine what it’s like to encounter barrier after barrier in life simply because of skin color! “Nonwhites” deal with this tension every day… leaving them weary and frustrated.
The fight to end racism and white privilege will never be over. The process will always be ongoing. We can improve our common life, however, if we continue to struggle with the issues within us and within our culture.