We are all racist.
Our entire system has been built to give us an advantage. This isn’t an excuse for our racism, it’s to explain why being racist doesn’t mean we want to lynch someone and doesn’t even mean we’re being accused of being a bad person.
There are two ways to respond when we are confronted with being racist.
1 — I’m not racist. I’m nice! I didn’t vote for Tr^mp! Or I did but I don’t agree with that part.
2 — Shit, I’m sorry. I am learning and I have work to do.
The first is easy. The second is hard and requires work. So no wonder we like to default to the first.
And, making it about us (I’m so outraged! My best friend is black! I’m going to tell you all about how I’m not racist!) is racist. It’s already all about us.
Even if we are nice, we are also racist.
Our society does not celebrate the vulnerability it takes to be wrong. And then to correct our behaviors.
This is why it’s hard for us to simply apologize without an excuse, a defense. We need, instead, to prove we’re right.
When black people are murdered by anyone, let alone a cop, in broad daylight and face no repercussions, we are not right.
One black president does not erase the experiences of the majority of our fellow Americans who are scared to go for a walk in the park or a run through their neighborhood. Who are told they don’t work hard enough in a system designed to keep them oppressed. Who are told to stay peaceful when one of the most famous does nothing more than taking a knee and is ostracized. We are not right.
We are not right until we can say that we’d willingly go through life as a black person.
What can we white people do? We can listen. We can do our homework. We can be uncomfortable with the realization that we’re all racist. Yup, all of us, no matter how well-meaning. And then do the fucking work it takes to dismantle centuries of ingrained, systemic racism.
This won’t happen overnight. But it will never happen if we continue to convince others and ourselves that we’re not the problem. That kicks the can down the road, when the problem is here. Now.
The work didn’t stop with the civil rights movement. No, it just began. It’s easy to say, “Black people can use the same water fountains as white people.” That’s tangible and easily enforced. And look at how hard that was.
It’s much harder to open the fountains of justice, the fountains of complicated webs of social structure that keep people of color oppressed, the fountains of equal voting access and incarceration rates and healthcare access and maternal death rates and, and, and.
We are in power, so by definition, we are the only ones who can give it away. It is time to do the work. It’s uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as centuries of abuse.