I'm sure that I've witnessed numerous instances of racism, and listened to countless white people spew racist remarks, but because I wasn't personally in the cross hairs, it didn't resonate with my younger self.
I attended a workshop more than a decade ago on racism and bias, and it really shook me up. I was choking back tears at my own complicity and lack of awareness. I was that fragile white person and I'm sure there were folks in the workshop who thought, "Oh, she only now getting it?" Yes, I am a product of the dominant white culture.
I wanted to share memories that are arising for me at this critical time.
- Helping my neighbor with her garage sale. Watching cars pull up, take a look, and pull away. This happened often, too often to be a coincidence. A mostly white town of surfers and liberal college students, old family conservatives clashing with a now liberal, left wing City Council. So, yeah, you guessed it, she was black. I finally turned to her and shared my observation and asked her if she thought it was because she was black. "Oh, yes." she answered. My head exploded.
- Same town, I was selling my electric bike and a friendly guy with his elderly mom drove about 40 miles to pick it up. I told him he'd need to purchase a new battery for it, and I wrote down the name of the shop where I purchased it so he could get the right battery. He asked me to please write a receipt and I did. Awhile later I received a phone call from the POLICE asking me if I had sold my bike or if it was stolen. You guessed it, he was black. I verified I sold it to him. The bike shop owner had called them, his racism in all it's full-blown shame. I was so upset: this was a gentleman and a sweetheart. So was his mother (well, a gentlewoman).
- Completely different town and region in California: A few years ago we hired a college student to house sit for us while on vacation. A real upstanding young man - serious about his studies, his photography and his faith. We were so lucky to have found him and trusted him to take care of our three dogs and our house. I knew, however, that neighbors would see a black man coming and going from our house while we were gone, and to deal with the matter straight up, I took him around to the neighbors to introduce him as our house sitter. My husband thought this a little over the top, but our sitter appreciated it very much. Would I have done that if our house sitter was white? Nope. I wouldn't have had to.
Those are just a few instances that I can remember off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many more that have faded with time. This is what black and brown people have to deal with all the time. Can you imagine the drag on your psyche to have to be this vigilant every day? Walk a mile in their shoes.
White people must confront their racism. We are the problem. Only we can fix it.