Racism. How did we get here? What can we do?

If you're having a hard time understanding the need for protests and shaking your head at all this looting, you're kind of missing the point right now. It's also very possible your privilege is clouding your vision. 

You might be offended, angry even, if you've ever been asked to check your privilege. You might be thinking "I've had to fight hard to get where I am. I haven't exactly had the easiest life. Why are my struggles worth any less?" 

What does that mean anyway? Check your privilege? 

To check your privilege, to acknowledge it, means to acknowledge another's pain. It means to accept that in some way, no matter how small, you have an advantage that another doesn't. There are many different types of privilege. For example:

  • You may have the privilege of wearing the symbol of your faith and not fearing you'll be labeled a terrorist

  • You may have the privilege of being affectionate with your spouse or partner in public without having to be afraid of being attacked 

  • You may have the privilege of crossing a border with your child 

To understand your white privilege means you can see and accept that you have benefited from unearned access and power because of the color of your skin, even if you weren't looking for it. It means you were so unaware of the advantage it gave you that your first instinct is to deny it. If this makes you uncomfortable, good. It should. 

Acknowledging white privilege is not: 

  • Identifying yourself as a white supremacist 
  • Racist 
  • Disregarding any hardships you've had in life 

Acknowledging white privilege is: 

  • Admitting that because of the color of your skin, you have experienced certain advantages 
  • A chance for you to understand the impact you have had and can make 
  • A way to pay attention to the suffering of your fellow man 

Being white doesn't make you a villain, or automatically mean you're racist, it doesn't mean that you haven't had to struggle, or that you haven't worked very hard to get where you are in life. It does mean that in a lot of ways you haven't had to climb as high a bar to reach what you want and what you need to live. 

It wasn't until I took it upon myself to become educated on black history that I eventually learned race is a social and political construct. As a part of the colonization process, race was used in order to differentiate who received certain rights and privileges (there's that word again!) and to dehumanize certain peoples (the poor, Indigenous, Irish, Africans) in order to use them as slaves. 

Whiteness and being white hasn't had a static definition (still doesn't) and that's because it's a construct. Irish, Italians, and Jews at one point in history were not considered "white". They went through a process of assimilation that involved the loss or minimization of important parts of their cultural identity in order to gain access to white privileges. Similarly, people who might have been considered white weren't labeled as such if they came from Latin America or South America, they were Latino. 

Colonization is rooted in the idea of power over another people, particularly indigenous people. It breeds a current of fear that there is not enough power for everyone, and so we must take hold of and control it. It obscures the reality that we all have power, power is infinite and having power over something is not permanent. Accepting this proved difficult for the colonizing man and the fear of losing authority was (and still is) such a deep threat to certain institutions, and social systems, that it has caused polarization to grow and spread with each freedom and right stripped away from humans of different ethnicities and cultures seen as inferior. 

In turning us against each other, structural and institutional racism is able to thrive and perpetuate individual and interpersonal racism. 
In order to maintain power it's easier to divide us against one another and continue to spread the false idea that there is not enough. Not enough power for all, not enough jobs for all, not enough money for all, not enough homes for all, not enough food for all. This is false. Ghettos were a creation, just like race was a creation, and any sense that there is not enough for all comes from a broken, greedy, corrupt system that began with colonization and continues to build a civilization on the backs of those they deem less worthy. If you feel you've been dealt a bad hand and you still benefit from white privilege in any way, it's not your fellow man that should be demonized, it's the system that put you where are. 

Often, in talking about how to fight racism it's posited that we need to have more empathy for one another, but there's no way to know exactly what another human experiences and so empathy can only really go so far. We can try to put ourselves in the shoes of George, Breonna, and Ahmaud but there is no way to truly understand what it must have been like for them. What it must be like for their families right now. What we CAN do is listen. We can believe the stories the black community shares about injustice, prejudice, and racism. We can support them by not shaming each other for talking about it, and not being complicit in our silence. 

We can support the black community by becoming anti-racist, because it's not enough to be
 non-racist anymore. 

What's the difference between anti-racist and non-racist you ask?

To be non-racist is to take a more passive role in the rejection of racism, it's an inaction. It's saying you don't approve of the oppression of a group of people but not doing anything about it. 

So what can we do about it? 

To be anti-racist means you learn to identify inequities that give any any racial group material advantages over people of color, it means that you're willing to confront any biases or racist ideas you might still hold (and may not even be aware of), and that you use your voice to change racist policies by volunteering or funding (or even starting your own) organizations that are working towards getting rid of disparities. 

I know I'm not speaking truth to this in a perfect way, and I may be inviting a storm of corrections and "um, actually"'s but it's important that we not be afraid to talk about this with each other. It's okay if we aren't perfect because we're learning.

Don't be afraid to stand up to injustice because you're afraid you won't do it right. 
That being said, it helps to have resources so I would like to share what I've found and encourage you to read (or listen on audiobook) and begin an education on race and racism. Don't judge yourself too harshly for finding biases or prejudices you didn't realize you had, instead notice them and do the work to dissect them, there's a difference between ignorance and willful ignorance after all. Once you've begun to understand a little more, have the confidence to speak up and out against racism and change the policies that keep it alive. 

Let's also remember to not lose sight of what's really important. Violence isn't the answer, but neither is silence. We can use our voices and stand stronger together, united as one people, to affect real change, that's what true power is. 


To read 

  • So You Want To Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo 
  • How To Be An Antiracist - Ibram X Kendi 
  • Stamped From The Beginning:The Definitive History of Racist Ideas In American History - Ibram X Kendi
  • An African American And Latinx History Of The United States - Paul Ortiz 
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism - Robin DiAngelo 
  • When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir - Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele 
  • Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower - Brittney Cooper
For children 

  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners 

To watch 

  • 13th - Netflix documentary about racial inequality in the justice system 
  • Selma - Film that chronicles marches of the civil rights movement 
  • The Hate You Give - Film about race in America from a young adults' perspective 
  • Blackkklansman - Film about a black police officer that infiltrates the KKK 
To follow

These are valuable resources for anti-racists and anyone who has a desire to learn and understand how racism affects us all. If you want to know more than what I've shared here there's a lot more information and resources out there, you just have to look!

Love and Peace To All 
 Image - Open Society Foundations


  1. One of the things I love about your article is that it calls for action. It's not enough to just recognize and admit that race relations in the United States has reached a peak of ridiculousness. When a race has been ostracized WORLDWIDE, action needs taken to prevent further harm. As with the Jews and LGBTQ, there was action taken and laws written and enforced to protect them. The Black race needs this action.


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