White and Ignorant: The Harsh Truth
"If not us, who? If not now, when?"
I have come to the startling realization that I am ignorant.
I have learned some black history, I've had relationships with some black men, been in a black church, heard stories, paid attention to social media, read articles, traveled, and I am appalled by and aware of the prevalence of racism in today's world.
I grew up in a family of love and acceptance. I did not grow up having a concept of there being a difference between me and you because of our skin colour: not at home, not at school, not in my grandparent's house. I had no comprehension of an innate greater-than or lesser-than. I have come to realize that even something as simple as this, is a privilege.
I have learned that as openly and peacefully as I so easily viewed the world, there are entire communities, cultures and races of people who do not get that same opportunity. However peaceful they may be; however kind, or intelligent, or accepting, not everyone gets to grow up with the belief that everyone is equal. Our world continues to enforce that certain people are not, for no other reason than they are born a different colour. And, what's even worse, it is people of MY colour who have made it that way.
As I grew into an adult I believed that being aware, open-minded and loving people, made me an ally… The problem wasn't me. I believed that the pain I feel for the people who feel pain: who face racial injustices everyday, excluded me from being an ignorant white person.
The harsh truth is that I am.
It does not matter how much I know, or read, or watch, or listen. It is IMPOSSIBLE to truly appreciate the magnitude of all that has happened. It is impossible because there are so many stories that have never been heard, so many injustices that have never been known, and a huge community of people fighting through oppression. This oppression exists today, no matter how rosily I live my life, no matter how much love is in my heart.
I have been grappling with the question of what will it really take for the injustices to be made just. What will it really take for the hurt to be healed, for the pain and grief and fatigue to be eased, for fear to disappear? What will it really take for the fight to be won, for true equality to be realized?
As much as I want to see a world where equality is real, I despair there is so much that can never be made up for. It will never be enough. And honestly, we don't deserve it. The damage has gone on so deeply, for so long, and in so many ways. An apology doesn't cut it. Police being charged and in-prisoned doesn't cut it. Marching and fighting alongside black communities still doesn't cut it. What we, white people, have done can never be un-done, it can never be redeemed.
If we can move on from this together, if forgiveness can even be granted, it won't be possible as long as we, white people, continue to stay in our own tidy corners. We cannot continue thinking that just because we are not racist, we aren't the problem: that it doesn't apply to us. The very system that we live so comfortably within, does not support, and is in fact against, black people and other minorities. We, also, have to be the ones who refuse to live this way. As long as our systems continue to oppress (and down right attack) our neighbours, our friends, our peers, our loved ones, and even the strangers on the street, we will never even have the chance to know what it will take to heal the wounds that we have made and we continue to make.
For hundreds of years the voices and actions of black people have been neglected and unheard, it is overdue that we join them just as loudly if not louder. Whether we like to admit it or not, it is white people with the privilege, it is white people with the power, it is white people with the favour on our side, so it needs to be white people who raise our voices loudly and stand alongside black communities. This is not a battle for only black people to fight. It is no longer sufficient not to be racist: to feel sad and sorry. We, white people, are the ones who have made these systems, and we are in the position to help change them. If black people had been in the same positions, wouldn't the systems have been changed a long time ago? The only reason they continue not to be is because white people are still sitting in the seats, we have kept them for ourselves. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustice in our justice systems, the differences in pay, in health care, and in education. We can no longer tolerate that simply stepping out of their houses to go jogging, driving, or to reach for a cell-phone is risking black people's lives.
With all of that being said, keeping our privileged white birth-right in mind… "With great power, comes great responsibility". SO, WHO'S RESPONSIBILITY IS IT REALLY?
© 2020 Stephanie H Roodbol