White. I am white. I am a part of a demographic representing privilege and affluence based upon the color of my skin. I did nothing to earn this privilege yet I have been blessed with DNA that colors me pasty white in the winter, tomato red in the summer, and up until recently, oblivious to the racism in this country. I can walk into a store, shop, and leave without anyone suspecting I am up to no good. I can walk down the street and not have to worry about getting questioned about why I am there and where am I headed. These are the simple facts of my life. I am also a woman, so I’ve spent a good portion of my life avoiding situations and people that may put me in a position to be assaulted. I was mindful of my alcohol consumption in college and took taxis home from parties because I didn’t trust that my “safe” ride home wouldn’t try to rape me. I’ve paid close attention to my gut feeling and have left dates, rooms, cars, etc. to avoid bad situations. And I’ve had to teach my daughter to be perceptive,wary and to listen to her own gut when it comes to being female. Those lessons started when she was three.
I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to be mindful of my privilege. I have wedged my foot down my throat more times than I care to admit while trying to navigate discussions about race. I’ve claimed I was colorblind before I learned that isn’t possible and to say as much is downright offensive. I’ve apologized for using the term “sexual preference” with a lesbian when referring to the LGBT community, when I know, KNOW! that being gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. isn’t a choice or a preference. I’ve tripped over the terms black, Mexican, even Jew, with blacks, Mexicans and Jews, because there was a time when I didn’t know if those words were derogatory or not. They aren’t by the way. I’ve danced around discussions about race, been fearful about offending people, and have let that fear inhibit me from speaking freely and asking questions. But over the years, I have worked on kicking that fear. I now ask questions, I own my mistakes, and I look for opportunities to talk to my kids and people of color about race and their experience as much as possible so I can learn.
I live in a bubble of progressive elites. My town is clean, safe, diverse and full of thoughtful, educated people, and it will probably stay that way, even through four years of Trump. It would be easy for me to ignore the blatant hate, to avoid discussing race, to hide in the safety of my community and hope that the racism and sexism are just going to clear up and go away through the work and grace of others. But it’s not that simple. I can no longer assume that we are making progress on these issues. My awareness of privilege is nothing new, but in light of the rise of hate post election, it is now my responsibility to help fix the problem, because I am white—because for so long my skin color shielded me from the issue, and I could remain ignorant of the subversive hate around me. But I can’t pretend this shift towards anger and darkness isn’t my problem. To remain complacent and inactive means to accept this new reality, and I simply can’t do that. So I will continue to talk to my kids, and take risks with my dialogue and occasionally shove my foot down my throat as I navigate the lessons about what it means to be an ally, and what it means to raise allies, and what it means to fight back against this racist, sexist world.