Reclaiming My Power From White Women
Sara Haile-Mariam

I learned I was racist when I was about 13 and I was beaten up by someone who misunderstood my message. I told people in school I was a member of the “White Panthers”, In fact I was bragging about my radicalism (In reality I was too young to be really be a member) Anyway it was a group of white people who sympathized with the Black Panther movement. But the girl who jumped me didn’t know what the white panthers stood for and she thought it was like the klan. So she pounded me. I came home and my told my mother a “black girl had beaten me up. Instead of being sympathetic my mother said to me, Why did you say a black girl beat me up? If it had been a white girl would you have said “ A white girl beat me up”. You see I didn’t think I was racist, but I was at the time making the distinction that someone who didn’t look like me had hurt me and as such my very astute mother made the point that I had already differentiatiated between the races by pointing out the race of the person who hurt me. My mother fought racism her whole life starting with marching in the south at civil rights marches and marrying an American Indian man and giving birth to a bi-racial kid,(me), But the fact is bi-racial or not I look white and have always benefitted by white privilege, and I learned a hard lesson when that happened, that racism is insidious and you have to fight it constantly. The first thing you need to do is eliminate the idea of “them” because if you look at other people as “them” whether it be people of a different color, or religion you have already segmented the people as different from you somehow and it is the first stage of assuming you or your kind are different or better somehow. No matter how much you think you welcome people of other races you might be more exclusive to your own race than you think. At my wedding which was very small, there were African Americans, Original People (Native Americans) Hispanic people and Caucasian people. I have always appreciated the diversity of my friends. But when I look at wedding pictures and see that even standing in a circle and holding hands, all the Native Americans stood together, and the African Americans stood together, and the white people and so on you get the picture. I was so caught up in the minute and so excited to be marrying my soul mate I didn’t see how all my friends had paired off into being with their own race. We were mostly all friends, I am sure non of us thought we were racist in any way, but all these people felt most comfortable with people of their own race and I guess thats OK, as long as you don’t lord it over people or make an assumption you are better or even different because as I taught my students when I taught “Diversity” at the University where I was A Social Work Professor. everyone on the planet pretty much wants the same thing in life. We want to be safe, we want to be loved, we want enough to eat and if we have children we generally want them to do better than we did, otherwise it is all just dogma and theory. The differences are culture or religion, but the basics, they stay the same, and as long as you think of someone different than you as “them” you won’t ever be able to think of them as “us” so you can be inclusive.

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