I’m Not Racist, but…

I have gone through 3 stages of racism:

Stage 1- “I’m not racist, but….”

My elementary school, middle school, high school and college were all overwhelmingly white.

Each school taught almost exclusively white history.

The churches my family attended were either completely white, or almost completely white.

When I went on mission trips, the families I “helped” were almost always African American.

None of this seemed weird.

I knew what “real racism” looked like.

I saw KKK rallies near my town courthouse in the 90’s. When I was in 2nd grade, KKK members threw rocks through the window of my friend’s house. I remember asking, “why would someone do that?” He looked at me and whispered, “because I’m Jewish”. I didn’t understand at all, but I nodded as if to say, “of course, yes”.

Those people were the real racists.

I certainly wasn’t like “those people”. I am a good person, I’m not a racist.

I used to say things like, “if people don’t want to go to jail, they shouldn’t break the law”.

I believed that minorities shouldn’t get special treatment because of the color of the skin. No one gave me any breaks, I worked for everything I had and demanded that others do the same.

Part 2- “Enlightenment” and Condescending Racism

Social media exposed me to new ideas.

They clashed with my white Christian upbringing and I got incredibly defensive. I doubled down on my belief that everyone had an equal shot at success and that I got things simply because I worked hard.

I started to read books instead of just social media updates. I wanted validation that racism wasn’t really a problem anymore and “some people” were overreacting.

With time, I got softer and actually listened.

I read a lot more and then started to get angry, really angry.

I was angry at those people in the past, those people in the south, those confederate flag welding, uneducated, neo nazi racists.

I started to feel smug, look how enlightened I am, a white person who really wants to understand racism.

I knew that I didn’t understand the problem, but I wanted to be part of the solution.

I wanted to listen and understand, because, I mean, I’m not a racist.

I wanted to be a person who took a different approach, a less in your face approach to the big issues.

I didn’t understand why some people felt the need to stand up and shout about race.

I said, “I mean, I get why that person is frustrated, I believe that they have experienced true racism, but I don’t think that shouting is the most effective way to communicate frustration. Why don’t they try to have a peaceful dialogue about the issues they are facing, that seems like it would work way better”.

I had no idea how condescending that was.

Part 3- I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m still part of the problem (and hopefully eventually the solution?)

Can someone really examine racism without reading Martin Luther King, Jr? I read this quote after Glennon Doyle Melton shared it on Instagram:

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season…

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

This quote killed me. It was one of those moments where I realized, oh my goodness I am part of the problem.

Here I was, patting myself on the back for saying “black lives matter” instead of “all lives matter”.

I understood that SOME people were racist. Those people over there, not me.

I thought, if only we could stop shouting at each other all the time.

If only we could stop ranting and raving and yelling.

Why can’t people just be kind?

Why do people need to be so “divisive”?

I’m sorry. I was wrong.

I was devoted to order instead of justice. I wanted to avoid tension and discomfort at all costs.

Now is the time to be divisive.

Now is the time to act, to speak, to shout.

I am clumsily stumbling about, and I know nothing of racism, except that it is real.

I am listening now.

I am trying to see now.

I am so sorry.

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24 Responses

  1. How interesting! Yeah, I tend to not really speak on these issues much, mostly because people are so divided. I feel like no matter what you say about racism, even when you mean well, there will always be someone that misinterprets it. I wish that the color of people’s skin wasn’t brought up so often, as I find that it doesn’t do anything but divide us even more. Like how the news breaks voters up by race. I don’t know, it’s always irked me. But I also understand why people want to talk about it, if they feel there’s an injustice going on (or rather, if there IS an injustice going on). The sad reality is, there will always be idiotic racists out there 🙁 I choose to never side with them, but to also bring up race as little as possible, since the color of someone’s skin is always the least interesting about them. This often makes me look like I don’t care about the hardships that different races face 🙁 It’s so sad, everything that’s going on nowadays 🙁 I just do what I know is right and let the daily social media posts go by without getting too involved.

  2. This is a good reminder to all that racism is real and all lives matters. Everyone should just do their part and be kind with one another with judgment. In my opinion, nothing good will come out of racism

  3. This post took a lot of courage. I think so many people really need to take a minute to realize what true racism is, and not just think they know it.

  4. Dana Peller says:

    It’s interesting to read someone else’s perspective on things and how they were brought up to believe certain things. Thanks for sharing a little about yourself and your thoughts with us.

  5. Ana De-Jesus says:

    I really admire that you openly admitted that you once did not understand racism but actually took the time to educate yourself and realize how much racism there is in society. For me personally I have been subjected to a lot of racism because of the colour of my skin and even in blogging I have seen how it occurs. Thank you for writing this post x

  6. This is such a powerful and enlightening post. If only everyone could be so thoughtful.

  7. I used to believe that everyone more or less has the same chances in life but I don’t believe it in anymore. Life is unfair and there is injustice everyday and everywhere. As long as that is understood maybe privileged people (and I’m not saying they did not work hard for their success) will finally understand that they had a better piece of cake and even their worst case life scenario would have been the dream-like scenario of less privileged people. I’m not only or necessarily referring to race but to overall social status, health, upbringing and origin. Life is not fair but each one of us has the chance to make it a bit fairer everyday.

  8. Kiwi says:

    As an African American women reading this post I want to say thanks for admitting a little of you prior ignorance to racism. It is so much things I can write but I will say people of color still in 2017 do not get fair treatment, there is subliminal racism still going on. The only thing you can really do is speak up. Don’t be a sideliner, if you want be vocal about how your peers are acting and let it be known that you do not like or tolerate this kind of treatment and if you can help please do. Just dont turn a blind eye or like Tina Fay satired on SNL sheetcake your feelings.

  9. GD Blog says:

    I so love this post. So real, and this is a “legit” relatable post. Racism is a real thing to be talked about, we need to learn how to seriously take such things like this. For me, we need to learn that racism is everywhere and we need to be storng and tough enough to start a step of stopping this.

    -Gerome of G&D Blog

  10. Ophelia T says:

    This is a great post. It is great that you are spreading the problem of racism and that it still exists in our society. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I agree with Pat. Here in Asia, every races get along well. There might be a racist thing, but not as vulgar and as violent like in the Western countries, and most people try to keep that opinion to themselves.
    I think what lacks the Western countries are awareness and education. Be patience to help one at a time. It will make a difference.

  12. Claudia Krusch says:

    This is a great post. It will be perfect for my Son to read. He is doing a paper in class this will definitely help him with.

  13. Sarah Bailey says:

    What an amazing post it must have taken such courage to post this and it really is enlightening to read thank you.

  14. It takes a lot of bravery to write such a post. You’ve made some great points, some of which I agree and disagree with. I do hope that one day that everyone will see each other as a person and not of a color.

  15. Ruth Bloch says:

    I appreciate what it took to write this post. I don’t know if I agree with what you are suggested which seems to be a lack of order? In order to effect change…I’m sorry if I’m reading that incorrectly! I just can’t see how social unrest which suggests people would be put at risk of injury, would help the current situation. Sorry if I’m getting this wrong!

  16. Nordic Mod says:

    I like how you addressed the myths you learn about growing up in Christian white culture. The whole “just work hard and you will get everything you want bla bla”. That’s really only true for other white Christians. It really doesn’t take into account the struggle minorities face. But growing up in that environment, you are not exposed to the idea of white privilege. And also, if you do struggle in life, regardless of skin color, white christian culture thinks that you have some sort of moral failing (lazy, makes poor choices, etc) I’m also glad that I educated myself about the problems that people outside my little world face and try to help (or at least not be part of the problem) too.

  17. thetennisfoodie says:

    This post is very enlightening and it contains valid points. Thanks for your insights.

  18. thehouseturnedhome says:

    This post has some good points. There is a difference though between race and culture and I feel like many don’t distinguish the two.

  19. Corinne and Kirsty says:

    This is a wonderful post and it takes a lot of courage to write it. All you said is really true. it is always hard to think something is out there if you haven’t experience it yourself (hence why so many men thing street harassment does not exist). And sometimes, even with the best intentions, you are still condescending coz it is deeply racial issues are so deeply integrated in our society. Which needs to change

  20. Stacey says:

    I struggled with how to comment on this without sounding condescending or pstronizing you. I am grateful for every well meaning sole that gets awakened to the evils of racism. Many people have read MLK statement and fsiled to grasp the subtext of his words. But I dont think you are one of them.

  21. makeamomsmile says:

    Takes a lot of courage to write this post! I hope it will help others to stop, listen and re-think their thoughts and actions as well! I am actually going to share this with a few people right now!

  22. Amber says:

    This is a powerful post. I always try to be a good person, and I raise my kids to be good people. I wish everyone could be good and kind.

  23. pat says:

    coming from asia and a third world country and now recently moved to north america, i felt so surprise and sad about this as in a third world country, the problems are so deep that regardless of color and race, people just seem to see beyond that and just help together to get by each day! i hope we can all resolve this

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