Learning to Accept That I'm a Racist

Learning to Accept That I'm a Racist

I've been reading more and more about racism and anti-racism these days. Slowly, I'm learning about the systemic nature of racism and how my limited definition prevented me from seeing how I perpetuate the racist paradigm.

"Racism is a system, not an event," says Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. This was something I never considered until the Black Lives Matter movement gained fresh momentum, inspiring me to do more reading and research into the black perspective and anti-racism books.

As a 32-year-old biracial woman that passes as white, I've had my ups and downs in life, but I've never had to fear being treated differently due to the color my skin. The fact that this even happens befuddles and enrages me. 

It's not fair, I'll say. But to the extent of the injustice of racism, I do not empirically know. I don't know the pain of knowing that there are people in the United States of America (and the world) that think of me differently, or less than, because of the color of my skin. This is something I do not know, and something no one should ever have to know.

And yet, here we are in 2020 facing off with systemic racism - something that has been well-established for centuries. We are socially conditioned to not notice it, and in its invisibility, we perpetuate it. By not recognizing its existence, we are forced to live by the structures that racism was built on.

So what can we do to stop racism?

A question many of us are asking ourselves these days. A question I hope future generations will never have to ask themselves. A question that I pray brings a solution, soon.

Countering My White Fragility

When I started learning more about the Black Lives Matter movement and educating myself about racism and how I participate in it because I look white, I felt a lot of resistance. My progressive nature was not enough to keep me from going on the defense with sayings of, "I support equality" or "I'm biracial, so how can I be racist?"

Through my studies of racism and notably, my reading of White Fragility, I have learned that participating in racism doesn't make me a bad person, it just makes me a white person in America. 

Racism is not always a choice.

The spectrum of racist behaviors range from overt to covert. And just because I'm not committing blatant acts of racism, doesn't mean I get to exclude myself from the oppression that racism creates. While I don't believe that black people are inferior because of the color of their skin, I do have white privilege.

I do gain benefit from a society that allows me more opportunities than those of color. Whether that is my fault or not is irrelevant. The fact is now I have awareness, and now I can start making conscious decisions to counteract racism and become anti-racist.

Racism is a system I was born into by being born and growing up in America. I have been socialized and conditioned to be racist, without any knowledge or volunteering on my part. Just like the media trains us to view and treat people with mental illness fearfully, we are being taught how to view and treat people of color. 

Just by turning on the TV, we are learning about different ethnic groups. And yet, our "education" about different races is being decided by people not of that race- in 2016–17, 93% of the people who controlled what TV shows we saw were white (31 DiAngelo).

This creates a wide space for misrepresentation and subtle and covert racism to run rampant.

So again, the question comes:

What can we do?

Do Your Own Research

If the media is being disseminated by mostly white people, then it's time to do our own research to learn about the black perspective. By tuning into news stations or even flipping on your Apple TV or Netflix*, the majority of what you will see has the potential of being filtered through white fragility, which means it has another agenda: keeping racism intact. 

[*Note: I have started watching "Dear White People" on Netflix and am gaining a lot insight into the black perspective. This show was created by Justin Simien, a black American filmmaker. There are a lot of good resources to find on Netflix or Apple TV. We just get to seek them out and see who actually wrote/created the show.]

White fragility perpetuates the structure of racism. Which is why I highly recommend anyone to read DiAngelo's book, White Fragility, to learn the ways in which racism is keeping itself alive - for example, our fear of being called a racist actually hides us from the truth of our racism.

What I learned that helped me to accept my white supremacy, was understanding that racism is a system, not an event. Everyone has prejudices, but when there is a system in place that uses these biases to oppress a specific group of people, that is racism.

By acknowledging that I am a part of systemic racism, I can commit to doing the work. I am not explicitly racist, but I need to be anti-racist in order to oppose white supremacy. 

Through educating myself, I am able to understand the black perspective and why my defensiveness I feel when hearing "white people are racist" is actually the insidiousness of racism trying to desperately maintain its existence.

I realized that my initial resistance was actually my racism. My ignorance was the true culprit. Now that I am learning about the true definition of racism and how it works in our society, I can make choices to help change it. But first, I must be willing to change myself.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published