I was running late this morning taking my child to school. (I blame daylight savings.) The car line stalled so I impatiently let my daughter out of the car early so she wouldn’t be marked tardy. She scampered down the sidewalk and into the building.
At her school we all do it. We let our kids out of the car early because we give up on the school staff coming to let them out. Either it takes forever or they sometimes forget and skip a car when extracting children from vehicles, and the parent then has to get out and let their child out, or wave them over.
It’s not a perfect system. The school doesn’t have an exact stop and start area marketed off for exactly where they will let kids out of the car, they just kind of wing it each day. I’ve complained repeatedly about the fact that they don’t have the street marked where you should stop.
However today, the car in front of me stopped about 25 ft before it was supposed to, the doors opened and kids were getting out, I could see legs starting to come out of the car. Then all of a sudden, not one, not two, but THREE members of the school staff yelled viciously. They yelled at the children “NO! NO! You do NOT get out of the car here! GET BACK IN! GET BACK IN!’ Then they yelled at the driver, “PULL UP! PULL UP! STOP HERE!”
I was stunned. Sure they yell at people every day, but never that viciously, and never prevent the kids from actually getting out of the car. Then I saw why. Three beautiful little Indian girls got out of the car. They looked embarrassed and mortified. Or maybe I was projecting that emotion because I was embarrassed and mortified.
I sat there shocked. Trying to decide what to do. Then the car drove off before it was told to go, which is probably exactly what I would have do had I just been scolded by three adult strangers.
The problem with racism is it is sometimes so subtle that it’s hard to prove. If you accuse someone of being racist they will just deny it. If I called the school out on it they would say, “We yell at everyone who isn’t doing drop off properly.” Which is true. But they would never have yelled at white children like that. Not that viciously. I’m sure if I asked these women why they yelled they would say that they have ethnic friends and they love all the children at the school regardless of race and I’m sure they truly believe that in their minds. But racism is treating people different because they look different. So while a person may claim to like other ethnicities, they may still be racist.
While it’s easier to call people out on blatant racism, subtle racism is where I struggle. It gets tricky because people get defensive. They will turn on you and call you a liar. They will say they didn’t mean it that way. They will say “you’re being overly-sensitive.” They will say “oh, she’s just playing the race card.”
And it’s really hard when you’re an entitled white person who wants to fix racism. What do you say? If I call out the school on it, they will deny it. If I try to publicly shame them, I’ll get sued. If I track down the mom and reach out to her and apologize on behalf of my entire race, I’ll look like a stalker. And what if she didn’t notice it? What if she doesn’t realize that people are biased against her? What is she is somehow mysteriously living a blissful bubble life that I am the one to then pop?
And here’s my observation on the cycle for racism, mostly in the South, but can be applied throughout the US. A few white people behave badly, they paint racial slurs on buildings, or engage in hate crimes, or proudly and ironically wave a confederate flag, ignoring the fact that the flag represents a team that lost over 200 years ago. So you’ve got that, the bad do-ers. Then you also have the majority of white people are silently horrified. They are disturbed by the actions of a small group of white people, yet they say nothing, and while they might not personally hold contempt for minorities, they are in essence, accomplices.
Next you have media coverage of the horrific acts by the small group of the openly racist citizens. And if there’s no public outrage to offset the negative publicity, then what you have is a community that looks like it agrees with the hate and violence.
And here’s what we need to recognize, even racist white people are afraid of racist white people. If a town or community even has a rumbling of a KKK meeting, then people are afraid to go there. If a state looks like it has a lot of hate crimes, corporations don’t want to move there, they don’t want to deal with the headache. If a town looks complicit in allowing hate crimes to happen while turning a blind eye, it’s going to affect everything – tourism starts to dry up, which causes restaurants to close, which causes job loss, and businesses opt not to move to these areas that look volatile, or current businesses chose to build up their staff in other cities that are less turbulent. And real estate pricing drops because people with money and the ability to live anywhere, don’t move in droves to places that look socially and politically unstable. So you end up with a bunch of shitty white people scratching their heads, wondering why they don’t have a job and why they owe more on their house than it’s worth, and they’re looking for someone to blame. Oh, and they will always find someone to blame.
So my fellow white people, stand up to racism, every chance you get. If you won’t do it because it’s wrong and awful and affects other people, do it because it affects you, too.
Here are some resources for taking small steps to tackle racial injustice in America:
White People Challenging Racism (WPCR) – Boston group that is moving from talk to action, or so their website says.
Showing Up for Racial Injustice (SURJ) – A national group that believes there is no room for racism.
And there’s this Washington Post article from summer 2016 that opens the discussion of racism against white people, which I have to now agree with. The day after the election, I woke up very suspicious of white people. (62 million of them to be exact.) If you are upset about racism against white people you have to be aware enough to stop and think, “Maybe we deserve this since our own actions caused it.”
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to this blogger Awsomely Luvvie who reminds white people “This is your monster to slay.” And she’s right. Problems don’t get fixed by ignoring them. After she admonishes white people in bold font, she then offers solutions.
Her article reminded me of a Facebook post I saw after gay marriage was made legal. It was a guy thanking straight people for helping pass the legislation. He pointed out that gay people are the minority, nothing would have changed without the support of the majority.
I know it’s weird and it seems wrong as a white person, to get on to other white people. But what’s wrong is allowing them to continue bad behavior and passing it down from generation to generation. You will be judged by people (who aren’t really your friends anyway) but that’s better than being judged by history. You have white guilt? Good, use it to do something good.
White People, stand up to your own demons, get on the right side of history. Let’s start moving forward and stop moving backwards. Don’t think that solutions come from DC, no rather solutions go to DC. If racism starts in your community, it can stop in your community. Speak out, and more importantly, teach your children to speak out. Like all things, if you learn them as a child they are easier to do as an adult. So teach your children the importance of standing up themselves and for their beliefs, and more importantly standing up for other people. It’s a skill they will need their whole lives.