All though I am of Hispanic descent on my dad’s side the Irish and the Pennsylvania Dutch took hold of my appearance. I grew up in a town where there was only one black family that I know of in the one high school town of Los Alamos. I never personally saw or experienced bad neighborhoods, (Los Alamos is one of the wealthiest towns with the most Phd’s in the country) or segregated schools or even different classes really for that matter. The closest thing to this was Espanola which was several miles away, down from ‘The Hill’ as we used to call our little home town.
Racism just wasn’t an issue or even a forethought growing up. As a young adult I became very interested in history. I studied the Civil Rights movements, I read as many books as possible and watched endless documentaries on the subject. I saw how horrible people were and the activism was awoken in me. My kids were raised in this environment and were subjected to endless hours of discussion and documentaries on the issues of racism and sexism. I raised them to be open minded and to stand up for what was right and to speak out against prejudices and injustices in the world.
I feel deeply about this issue but as a white person I can never really empathize with racism, as a woman I can absolutely empathize with oppression but not on the level that black people do.
I can and do talk about racism with my friends and family and do what I can to help end it. But one thing I can never do is talk to black people about it. I don’t know any personally. The couple of times I have reached out to a black person on social media and tried to discuss racism on any level whether is was asking what offended them and why or to offer my support I have received a somewhat indifferent cold shoulder with minimal response, just enough to not ignore me or I have been chastised with comments like ‘don’t pretend to know how I feel’ or ‘you can’t possibly understand’. They’re right, I don’t know how they feel nor do I really understand.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t give a damn about racism, it’s doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to fight racism, it doesn’t mean I am trying to apologize for my whiteness or that I am being or doing anything other than genuinely wanting to end racism.
I read a lot of articles and posts about how difficult it is for black people to talk to white people about racism. But I never see or hear any white people speak out about how hard it is for those of us who are not racists to bring it up or even join in the conversation with black people.
And I don’t know how to fix that.