White People Feelings

“Are you racist?”

I considered how to answer this for a long time. It’s a trick question: it implies that the answer is either “yes” or “no” and both are wrong. If you answer “no” then you are failing to recognize the complex, systemic inequalities of history and culture that inform what it means to be of any race in America. If you answer “yes” you are failing to recognize the cultural and social cost of marginalizing individuals based on race, in a kind of willful self delusion that there is an inherent rightness in your own race. 

But what do I know of any race beside my own? In truth: only what I have learned through experience and anecdote. I make an effort to believe that the underlying humanity of all people unites us as humans more than our skin color divides us in society, but I don’t deny that culture superimposes a dense layer of contradictory information on top of that assumption. And that I, as an individual of relative privilege, would be naive to claim to have made any kind of comprehensive study of those complexities. 

“Yes, probably.” I answered, at last. 

Whether I liked it or not, it was probably true. I mean, I try to not be a jerk about it: and I make an effort to fight my biases whenever I catch them manifesting consciously, but that’s not the same thing as not having any bias to begin with.  I still catch myself bristling when I get into discussions of race and privilege and intersectionality when I am told that the only contribution I am permitted to make is STFU About Your White People Feelings. Regrettably, I’m not able to have any other kind of feelings: being white and all. And if I tried to claim that I did have any other kind of feelings it would be cultural appropriation. I want to help: I want to learn and change, but I can’t do that by doing nothing. I can’t help having White People Feelings, but I can choose what to do with my actions. So am I racist? Maybe, but I’m fighting it as best as I can. I wouldn’t mind a little constructive direction on how I can do this more effectively. 


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on February 7, 2017.

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