Hello how are you today? I really want to speak about something that is on my mind and weighing heavily on my heart. I hope you won’t mind me addressing you as a group. I am aware that you are not all the same. Language can be restricting at times and I hope that stating my intention NOT to offend will be enough to soothe those of you miffed at the all encompassing address on this post. This letter is really for, “the White people who don’t want to be racist and therefore claim not to see race and that we are all the same, human.” But you see, that does get wordy, huh?
I realize that this race stuff is difficult. Trying to understand things that we don’t live is challenging. I can not intuitively imagine all of the challenges that someone in a wheelchair faces. I can sit and listen to them. I can spend time with them but even then I do not truly know what it is like to not be able to just get up and walk. I have to remember to listen when they speak. I have to remember to check my privilege and respect and acknowledge their experiences. Its not my place to tell them how to feel or how to interact with the segment of the world that does not need a wheelchair. It is not my place to speak FOR them even if I do so from a place of advocacy and support.
I use this example because I can imagine, and I’ve had white friends and family tell me how challenging it is to them to have the race conversations. I can empathize with how challenging it is to set aside privilege and accept a reality that I do not live because I have to do it too. (See above example) I know that you mean well when you say that you don’t see race. I know that your heart is bristling with empathy when you implore people to accept that we are all one race, the human race. I am respectfully asking you to stop.
Saying that we are all the same and that you do not see race invalidates MY experiences with race in this country. Saying that race doesn’t matter is a lie. I am a Black woman every single day of my life and I can tell you that racism is alive and well. I can tell you that I have experiences on a daily basis where I am not allowed to forget that I am a BLACK woman. Do I want to move past these experiences? Absolutely! But I can not until they stop happening. I can heal from or ignore one interaction. I can not heal from ongoing and systemic interactions.
I’m not going to list all the numbers here but I will tell you that non-White people are more likely to be profiled, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be incarcerated, less likely to be hired, less likely to be accepted to universities…etc etc etc. This is REAL! This is our life! These experiences cause pain. These experiences require healing. It matters what color we are. We can’t claim unity with one race, the human race when we are constantly facing the fallacy of these premises. It’s belittling to my experiences to implore me to, “stop seeing race,” or to stop identifying my experiences with racism as such. Are you following me?
Life IS different when you are not White and if you aren’t willing to accept that truth then you aren’t doing the work of dismantling racism. You are contributing to it by refusing to HEAR and ACCEPT my experiences in the world we live in. Not the world we all wished that we lived in but the world that we ACTUALLY live in.