Wednesday, June 18, 2014
People have it wrong. Racism isn't something you do. It's something you feel. The reason why we still face dissension on this topic is because we see it through eyes of separation. We must take a more inclusive look into this thing that won't go away.
Many white people are insulted and dismissive when described as having white privilege, while most black people find it to be as clear and real as iced tea on a hot southern day. The very idea that we can't even agree that simply being white in America comes with privilege indicates that we have limited ability to relate as human beings. If we can't do that simple thing, how can we ever begin to offer love and acceptance of each other?
I'd challenge you to ask a black person what their opinion is on whether white privilege is real or not. I believe denying the privilege is simply a way to denounce the shame that comes with knowing that people who share your blood, at one time, openly lived and breathed hate on an entire group of people simply because they chose to. It's embarrassing, hopefully. But instead of acknowledging that part of white history, some would rather just wipe it all away and pretend that since it was so long ago, we shouldn't talk about it. Since it didn't happen to you or the black people you know now, it's not real.
The hell you say! Oh, it's real. It's your history, and it's my history. As much as it may ease white guilt to not think about it and wipe it away, black folk can't sacrifice our pain, our hurt, our anger, just so that it doesn't shame you any longer. The mere idea that white people believe in separating their history from ours and moving on as if it doesn't exist is white privilege at its worst. So if you believe that not talking about racism will make it go away, or black people using the race card is racist, consider yourself a card-carrying member of a white-privileged society.
I am most certain that the only way for those who proudly proclaim white privilege is a farce to actually understand what it would be like to live as a black person. Since we know that won't ever happen, our only hope is to accept it, heal from it and love through it. Once we are capable of that, we can begin to "feel" what others feel. Once we start "feeling" it, we can associate it with our lives, and maybe the struggles of racism wouldn't be so easily dismissed.
If white people could "feel" what it's like to see those images play over and over on television, this might be different. Would you be willing to sit at a bar in downtown Jackson and have black people throw eggs at you and get in your face and utter the most horrific words to you because you shouldn't be there?
Or, would you give up your white skin to live as the maids and caregivers as those seen in "The Help"?
I recall all the conversations about that movie. I wonder how many white people were able to disassociate from the movie. My guess would be that many would lie to themselves and make that claim. Kudos to those who honestly could. I didn't have the luxury of separating myself from any of the black women in the movie. Even in my disgust and anger, those women were as much a part of me as the woman who ate the sh*t pie is a part of white women.
I am unable to disassociate myself from the marches, the sit-ins, the boycotts, the water hoses, the purse clinches, the overlooks, all simply because of my skin color. Contrary to what most may think, if you or your people never had to do endure any of that, your life is indeed privileged. Period.
The late great Maya Angelou once said, "The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams."
We're doomed to continue misunderstanding racism because we refuse to accept that it's all-inclusive. While it affects one race differently, it does indeed affect us all.
We are all human beings. We must all welcome an inclusive love—of self and others. Denying white privilege and/or continuing to embrace hate is simply counterproductive. Racism must be measured from a place of mutual respect and understanding. Until we all commit to feeling racism, it will continue to lurk among us, whether outright or hidden under the guise of ignorance and shame.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows and her puppy, Shaka.