I grew up in an America where there was no racism. How has the world changed so much? What happened?
I was not taught to hate anyone growing up. The “N” word was a swear word I did not use. We didn’t need to talk about race. Why would we? The North won the Civil War, and slavery was abolished, and schools were no longer segregated, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., …, and everything, right? All of that was simply a dark part of American history. We’d grown past it, hadn’t we? My parents and grandparents never enslaved people. Growing up I was free from any guilt of those wrongdoings in America’s past. In fact, because I lived in The North, I considered myself aligned with those that wanted to end slavery and be part of the solution. People in The North weren’t racist, right?
So what happened?
These are the thoughts I had growing up. As a child. Something has happened. I’ve grown up. I’ve had new experiences, met new people, and realized not everybody experiences America the same way I did. Even if they grew up in the same town as me, their America could look vastly different than the America I grew up in.
I can recognize now, as a grown up in America, that the reason there was no need to talk about racism, was because I lived in an area that was mostly white people. I can admit now that just because my family never enslaved people, didn’t make it OK for people to make racist jokes at family gatherings – even if everyone there was white and “it didn’t hurt anyone”. As an adult in America, I can see how when I used to say “All Lives Matter”, that was hurtful to people sharing their pain. Now, I can see the pain and suffering all around me. The thing about unconscious and implicit bias, is that we’re not aware of it. Until we are. Everybody has it. I have it. Having implicit bias does not mean I am racist, or a bad person. It means I am human.
White Supremacy in America is more than the KKK and White Nationalism. It is lingering in our words spoken without any thought, in our lack of knowledge and understanding of the generational suffering and trauma of people who don’t look like us, act like us, talk like us, or have experiences like us. This country was built on the pain and suffering of so many. Enslaved people. Indigenous people. People with disabilities. LGBTQ+ people. As a grown up in America, I can now see that I too have contributed to the suffering of other people, without any malice.
So where do I go from here?
Now that I’ve seen it, I cannot unsee it.
In my journey of self-discovery, I have decided to watch Ted Talks, subscribe to Social Media Groups calling for Racial and Social justice, and just start talking about it. I have taken implicit bias tests (you can find some here). I am far from perfect and I know there is more I can be doing, but I also know that silence is no longer acceptable. The America of the past has taken the approach that when there is a problem, we simply don’t talk about it. Race, politics, religion, etc. have been considered too controversial. The America I want to be part of will talk about our shared problems and come together to create the solution. We can, and MUST do better.
If you want to start talking about it, please reach out to me. I will gladly share some of the resources that have helped me. I am also glad to simply have a conversation without judgement.