I am evolving my friends, but it is taking time and a hell of a lot longer than I would have expected from myself. I have always prided myself on being so open and ahead of the game in regards to racism in my country, but I am beginning to realize that those ideas still came from a feeling of superiority. My ego, pride and self-respect are taking a well-deserved beating every day, the more I read and learn about systemic racism and my role in it. My struggle is real, but it is nothing compared to what my friends have gone through their entire lives. Only my pride and ego are suffering, because I have had to face and accept my part in the oppression of others, which I have so proudly thought I was fighting my whole life. What a slap in the face to now realize, I have done nothing to fight racism, but I have actually helped it intentionally or not. I have hurt the progress of others because of my own loud pride. “I am not racist, therefore I don’t have to do anything” has been my attitude for years.
Classic Kendra quotes: “Almost all my boyfriends have been black.” “I have mostly black friends.” “I listen to black music and know more about African history and culture than most black people in America.” Yes, these are words have spilled out of my own mouth and I am hanging and shaking my head in disgust. I am grateful that I still have any damn friends. I am embarrassed by my own words…truly. Who the hell am I? I have so much to learn, so much to empathize about, so much to shut up about and really listen to and process what is happening out there. I am evolving, but not fast enough.
Let me be clear, this is not an apology or a self-deprecating pity party. That is the last thing anyone wants to hear out of my mouth. This is solely a recognition of my complicity to the systemic problems of my country (and the world) and my promise to make personal change now that I see my role with eyes wide open. It is also a letter of thanks to my friends for sticking by me even though this process has taken some time and is still evolving. I thank you for tolerating my racism. My mind was not yet exposed to the literature and conversations I am privy to currently. This is not an excuse, I take full responsibility for my part and actions. I am awoken my friends, so thank you for your patience.
So what to do now? Admitting my part in the problem is only the first step. Without proper action though, my admission does no one any good. I have spent a year living abroad again and caught myself saying horrific things in general about the people of Colombia, due to my own personal, bad experiences here. So even admitting my part in global racism, I have STILL contributed to it with a conscious mind when I’ve deemed it necessary. I am only realizing this as I type this article the part I have played in racism whilst living in Colombia.
I am returning to the States with my Colombian fiancé in August. Subconscious or not so subconscious thoughts have passed through my mind about this move. “I” can make Danny’s life better by bringing him to the United States. “I” can. Let us be honest, Danny may have better economic opportunities in the U.S, but as a Latino man whose university degrees means nothing to professional job recruiters in America, 10 years of experience teaching in underprivileged schools and many awards of certifications of good work mean nothing there, absolutely nothing. His levels of self-respect and pride will decline and he will feel less than worthy solely based on the color of his skin and his lack of perfect English. I will never know what that feels like, yet I sit on my high horse thinking his life will be improved because I’ll take him to the big, bad United States where he can fill his pockets if he works hard enough scrubbing those dishes with his Masters degree.
Every moment I take the time to look and study my own part in racism, I am taken aback, but each time I am learning to acknowledge it faster and faster. I choose to make a real change.
1. My first step is to stop making broad sweeping generalizations about people even if what I say/think is seemingly true, because it is not…that is just downright racist.
2. I will try and curb my thoughts in regards to broad generalizations as well.
3. I will listen. I will listen and process and then listen some more.
4. I will not make excuses or apologize, but instead take mental, verbal (if necessary) and physical actions to better the lives of others whilst confronting my own assumed position of superiority.
5. I will stop trying to convince and validate my own position as a non-racist to my friends of color. I am by default. My own hurtful words have certainly not helped in my case.
6. I will ask my friends questions. I promise to try and learn from a place of humility and real will to change. Please school my ass, I am open to it and willing to listen without an attempt to argue back for any reason.
I have felt hurt, confused and angry over the last few years wrestling with my own blameworthiness in racism. I have wanted to scream, “This isn’t all white people!!! I love all people, I believe in cultural diversity and support it! I have studied African history and American history just to become more educated on the struggle. Look how fucking open I am!!!” This, this my friends is what I am FINALLY realizing is also another part of me being racist. I get it now. I am no better than anybody else and there is so much to learn about growing up as a minority in a white privileged society. So each day I will listen, listen a little more and say a little less.
This white girl has finally woken up to the smell of inequality after all these years of pretending she was not contributing to it. This is just the beginning for me in a long journey of change, but I am willing and ready. Teach me. I am listening…