This post is part of a series about white privilege, in which I discuss my views on the topic and how it affects our greater community. Click here to read the entire series.
White Privilege: Should Whites Talk About Race?
I’m white, and I know I ain’t right. Even though I’m very involved in the race discussion and I would consider myself aware, I know that some will always question my “whiteness” and my privilege, and that’s fine. We whites need to be questioned. But having white skin doesn’t make me the enemy. I’ve gotten criticism over the years for talking about racism. Mostly from whites, but also some from people of color. It seems there are some individuals who don’t think white people are qualified to talk about racism, can’t possibly be anti-racist and shouldn’t be involved in the conversation. Well, even though I don’t believe any of this, I will give haters some credit…they’re right to be suspicious.
Even for being as involved as I am, there are still some things that my white privilege may make difficult for me to comprehend at times. Just like a foreign language student studying abroad, for many whites, they may feel like they’re navigating through a foreign land, since race-talk is not often their first language. We may stumble here and there or miss the meanings of important discussions, but remember, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. For many whites, we’re raised in families that don’t believe in talking about race and even if we’re lucky enough to be exposed to diversity, we may still be lacking understanding about the stories of people of color. The important thing for me, is to keep learning. Not understanding a certain topic isn’t a reason to avoid it, it’s an opportunity to educate yourself. I do plenty of research online, I consult with my husband, with friends, with fellow racism bloggers, but one thing I won’t do, is sit idly on my questions or misunderstandings. The true path to understanding is obviously learning, and that’s something that we should never stop doing. Ultimately, we have to join the conversation and grow our knowledge on the topic if we ever expect to bring change. But we also have to be aware of our privilege and take that into account every time we hear a new perspective.
How about you? How do you address your white privilege? How do you keep yourself in check and push yourself to join the conversations? If you’re a person of color, how do you address whites who may not be out and out racists, but still offend with lack of understanding or assumptions? How do you handle those situations?