Friday, July 27, 2012


From a recent online discussion, where an old best friend posted a picture of Morgan Freeman informing his interviewer that the way to solve problems of racism is, "Stop talking about it." After an involving argument with his cousin, the conversation was nearly put to rest when his cousin suggested I get over my harsh, racist experiences because everyone experiences inadequacy over skin color, including white people. (And she has a number of non-white friends, she says, so she also doesn't feel she is a racist person.) I got angry, and what follows is my angry reply. I post it here because, frankly, I'm sick of having to repeat myself whenever I hear this. So now it's here.

Perhaps you, as a white person, feel you've felt inadequacy over skin color. To be honest, I have no idea how it would be similar to mine, or my family's, or anyone else I know who isn't white -- and it is, at the least, arrogant of you to presume it's similar.

I've been kept from hanging out with neighborhood kids, held up in a Harmon's on false theft accusations when I was nine, prevented from dating a ton of white people (who specifically told me it's because I'm not white), limited in my academic field, certain kinds of marginalization and stereotyping in my middle/high school years and at church, called racial slurs and spat at, kept ignorant of my cultural history -- and in my darkest moments, each time those things happened a part of me desired to have white skin.

Have you ever been rejected by a lover because of your skin color? Has your heritage ever been completely obscured by the celebrations of another race? Have you ever had someone call you a dirty name, then spit at your feet, and tell you it's because of your skin color? Has a professor ever told you to specialize in studying the history of your skin color because everyone else in the department gets to study anything else? Have you ever spent lonely days or lonely nights staring at your skin, and wishing there was just a little bit more white, and not darkness? I'm talking about a very profound sense of alienation, social marginalization, and self-loathing. And every non-white friend I have knows what all of this is like. And you're telling me you've "in your own way" felt this desire, this wishing, and the endless guilt that follows? NO. You have not.

It is a slap in my face to say "...oh yes, us 'whites' feel it too." No alienation or inadequacy you think you've felt over having white skin could possibly compare or relate to the alienation and inadequacy over *not* having white skin in me, or my African American girl friend, or my Mexican/Chilean American girl friend, or my guy friends from Pakistan and Afghanistan, or my co-worker from the Dominican Republic, or...A white person trying to argue that everyone feels the hatred and inadequacy of racism is mocking, and it's offensive. I'm sure you didn't intend to be offensive -- but that's very offensive. And it is precisely the ignorance in that attitude I'm identifying as racist.

Of course "hatred and intolerance of another race extends past 'whites.'" But you have entirely missed my point if you think that's it, and we should all just move on. Racism is not a universal behavior, like there is no banality of evil; the song from 'South Park' about how "everybody's a little bit racist" is a bunch of hogwash that only perpetuates the same broken ideology contemporary racism embraces.

For racism to continue, in fact, it needs white people to publicly say things like, "I've dealt with racism even as a white person; we all have to deal with racism, so let's all be equal." Racism doesn't work like that, and every day it's more and more unfortunate less and less people with white skin fail to understand this.

I'm not the only one to deal with this issue, but until everyone (especially white people) realizes that I and others like me shouldn't have to be the only ones who think critically and authentically about racism, then it will always be a problem for you and me and everyone else. And the kind of thinking you've demonstrated is proof no matter how informed you believe you are about racism, and no matter how many friends you have of diverse ethnicities, you still don't get it.

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