This. Everything that’s going on. This is a white problem.
Because from very young we’re shown images and told that brown people are dangerous. Our parents shield us from the “menacing thug” as we walk down the street.
Message received: Be suspicious of brown people.
Because we’re told that “they” allow “their” communities to be that way. Because we hear and then use phrases like “nice black family” and “she even talks white,” or he “sounds black.”
Message received: Being brown is bad. Being white is good.
Because it’s so deeply woven into our growth we can’t even see it. Because it’s subtle hate being passed on that we don’t even realize is there so when it’s pointed out we defend it like it’s part of us because it is.
This is racism.
It isn’t lynching or slavery, but make no mistake, it IS racism.
Stop. Stop using words and phrases like “talks white,” or “nice black family,” or “surprisingly polite Mexican man.” I’m not just talking about not saying it because it’s the PC thing to do or because we’re “in mixed company.” That’s the worst because it’s saying we don’t really believe it. Because there are children around us hearing us say these things when it’s “just us” and they learn those lessons. They learn that it’s ok to talk about the brown people when it’s just us white people.
Concede that we can’t understand. We can’t understand the fear of being stopped by the police and wondering if we’ll survive the interaction regardless of how respectful and compliant we are. Concede that we can’t understand not being able to go to the authorities because there’s a very high likelihood they will turn on us because they have that same deeply woven thread – that subtle fear and assumption. We can’t understand what it’s like to raise our children training them what to do if they get stopped by the police. We can’t understand fearing for their safety when they go…anywhere.
Concede that the deeply woven in part of us that’s always been there needs to be recognized and destroyed. It spreads with our words, our assumptions, and our subconscious stereotypes, with our quiet conversations and whispers when it’s “just us.”
First, however, we must acknowledge that the lens through which we look at the world has been bent and marred without our realizing it and because of that we cannot understand the struggles of others but..
We CAN listen.
We CAN empathize.
We CAN speak up to and with those within our own culture.
Because this is our problem and we need to get our house right.