The Power of Personal Experience to Understand How Racism Works
With all the painful stories in the news, I’m trying to find ways to push through, take responsibility and walk my talk. As a white person I can’t afford to be complacent or allow my privilege to go unchecked. This month’s blog highlights some great resources to help white folks develop a deeper understanding of how hundreds of years of legal and institutional racism continues to impact the lives of people of color.
When I was in college, I was sitting with a group of black friends and we got into a conversation about the cafeteria seating. One of them commented on the fact that all the white kids sit together. In my ignorance, I said, “I hear what you are saying about the white people all sitting together, but do you ever make an effort to go sit at the table with them?” At that time, no one checked me on the fact that people of color had been fighting to get a place at the table for hundreds of years. And, for me to suggest that they continue to do so was actually racist and ignorant.
Even as I tell you this story, many years later, I can feel myself shrinking. I try to practice what I preach so I share this experience not only to heal myself but in the hopes that others will grow and learn as well.
This book answers the question that it poses. For me, it opened the way for deeper understanding, empathy, and accountability.
If you would like to spend an hour hearing Dr Tatum share about her book, you can watch this video. It’s an hour well spent!
I was a black teenager drowning in whiteness and didn’t even know it by Lecia Michelle
This young woman shares her personal story of growing up with mostly white friends and how she unconsciously internalized racial oppression. When I hear stories like Lecia’s— of people of color coming to terms with how they have participated in the perpetuation of white institutional culture — it breaks my heart. Years and years of people of color— children!— trying to assimilate to white cultural norms for sheer survival. This is a painful truth that I hold myself accountable by continuing to examine my own complicity, and taking actions not only change my own behaviors but to work with other white folks and people of color to educate, advocate and resist and disrupt.
I’ve watched several of Jay Smooth’s videos and find them refreshingly clear and straightforward. Jay is a biracial “cultural critic and media savant” who uses his own experience of moving through the discomfort of talking about race to help others do the same. When I listen to his videos, I am reminded that I don’ t have to be perfect, I just have to try (and keep trying) to push past the discomfort and not be afraid to make mistakes.
See you on the journey,