This post has three introductions. The first and second follow this one, just to confuse you. I started this post last week and did not get back to it as soon as I hoped. I am also still trying to sort out my thoughts and felt an apology introduction was needed. Writing helps me put into words what I am thinking and feeling. Usually when I start typing it is as if a floodgate has opened and words pour forth. This time was different. The thoughts and feelings are so new, deep, and complex is became more of an archeological dig. Therefore, I do not think it as well written as I would like. But it is more real. Read with this in mind.
It has been a while. I am ashamed, but also, life happens. While I cannot claim that the reason for the delay was the heavy pondering of this post, I have been deeply contemplating this topic for quite some time. I just failed to realize it was a post until today.
Recently I have been confronted with the fact that I often judge things with very limited knowledge and experience, all while fully believing I am informed and aware enough to fairly make that judgment. In other words, I am ignorant and oblivious while believing myself to be educated and mindful. A truly dangerous state of mind, this revelation is both painful and enlightening. This is especially true when it come to racial issues. I find myself sorely lacking. What follows is both a confession and a plea.
A book was recommended to me. Thankfully it came in audiobook form (these days I start reading traditional books with good intentions but rarely finish them…) and was available through the library, or this post would have never existed. The book was called “Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race” by Debbie Irving. Honestly, I had never heard of it and would not have sought out a book on the topic of race without the recommendation. I am so grateful for the ways God orchestrates seemingly insignificant details in my life.
At the heart of the book is this, white people are clueless and oblivious to the continuing racism around them, the white privilege that smooths their way daily, and the heritage of white privilege that has given them an unnoticed unappreciated advantage. Skeptical? I was too. But you cannot argue with facts. What happened in one’s grandparents time and to them has undeniably influenced where they are today. What happens today is indeed rooted in deep seated, difficult to see, racism that I, as a white person, have been utterly blind to. No matter how you feel about this, how informed you think you are, or how skeptical and annoyed you are by people playing the “race card,” I urge you to just read the book. I was shocked.
The book started it all. You know how when you learn a new word or discover a new author you start seeing the word or name everywhere? You wonder if it is just coincidence or if you were just blind to it before? That’s how it was. Everywhere I looked I saw articles on race, heard people make flippant remarks about race, noticed my own biases pop up uninvited when in certain situations. On my favorite TV show “Timeless” one of the main characters, an African American named Rufus makes the remark that, at least this time being followed around a store suspiciously was deserved because the group was indeed shoplifting. At a women’s conference I heard a testimony by a woman saying she was nearly pushed to leave her beloved church because she was hurt by her white friend’s oblivion to racial issues. My own blindness to my white privilege became glaringly apparent. Do you usually have to pull out your ID to make a credit card purchase? Me either. Do you know that most of your minority friends shopping for the same items at the same stores are required to show ID? That is white privilege. Do you realize how regularly non-white people talk about racism in their homes, simply because there is no way not to? Not having to talk/think about race is white privilege!
I am guilty of ignorance and oblivion. Sadly, oblivion is not a personal issue. There are victims. I am at the beginning stages of becoming aware. It seems the best place to start is with an apology. To all my friends and family of color: I am sorry. I have been clueless, foolish, and blind. I am trying to learn and change. I also offer a plea. Talk to me. Help me. I want to understand. I want to change. I want to learn. But I hardly know where to start. So do not shy away from certain topics around me, tell me about them. While I cannot promise it will not get a little awkward, I can promise I would rather hear and learn than continue in ignorance. I now know just enough to realize there is a problem, a diagnosis. Now I need to start finding the cure.