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White and Ignorant: The Harsh Truth

Stephanie is a North American into her 3rd year living in Paris, France.

white-and-ignorant-the-harsh-truth

I have come to the startling realization that I am ignorant.

I have learned some black history, I've had relationships with some black men, been in a black church, heard stories, paid attention to social media, read articles, traveled, and I am appalled by and aware of the prevalence of racism in today's world.

I grew up in a family of love and acceptance. I did not grow up having a concept of there being a difference between me and you because of our skin colour: not at home, not at school, not in my grandparent's house. I had no comprehension of an innate greater-than or lesser-than. I have come to realize that even something as simple as this, is a privilege.

I have learned that as openly and peacefully as I so easily viewed the world, there are entire communities, cultures and races of people who do not get that same opportunity. However peaceful they may be; however kind, or intelligent, or accepting, not everyone gets to grow up with the belief that everyone is equal. Our world continues to enforce that certain people are not, for no other reason than they are born a different colour. And, what's even worse, it is people of MY colour who have made it that way.

As I grew into an adult I believed that being aware, open-minded and loving people, made me an ally… The problem wasn't me. I believed that the pain I feel for the people who feel pain: who face racial injustices everyday, excluded me from being an ignorant white person.

The harsh truth is that I am.

It does not matter how much I know, or read, or watch, or listen. It is IMPOSSIBLE to truly appreciate the magnitude of all that has happened. It is impossible because there are so many stories that have never been heard, so many injustices that have never been known, and a huge community of people fighting through oppression. This oppression exists today, no matter how rosily I live my life, no matter how much love is in my heart.

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I have been grappling with the question of what will it really take for the injustices to be made just. What will it really take for the hurt to be healed, for the pain and grief and fatigue to be eased, for fear to disappear? What will it really take for the fight to be won, for true equality to be realized?

As much as I want to see a world where equality is real, I despair there is so much that can never be made up for. It will never be enough. And honestly, we don't deserve it. The damage has gone on so deeply, for so long, and in so many ways. An apology doesn't cut it. Police being charged and in-prisoned doesn't cut it. Marching and fighting alongside black communities still doesn't cut it. What we, white people, have done can never be un-done, it can never be redeemed.

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If we can move on from this together, if forgiveness can even be granted, it won't be possible as long as we, white people, continue to stay in our own tidy corners. We cannot continue thinking that just because we are not racist, we aren't the problem: that it doesn't apply to us. The very system that we live so comfortably within, does not support, and is in fact against, black people and other minorities. We, also, have to be the ones who refuse to live this way. As long as our systems continue to oppress (and down right attack) our neighbours, our friends, our peers, our loved ones, and even the strangers on the street, we will never even have the chance to know what it will take to heal the wounds that we have made and we continue to make.

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For hundreds of years the voices and actions of black people have been neglected and unheard, it is overdue that we join them just as loudly if not louder. Whether we like to admit it or not, it is white people with the privilege, it is white people with the power, it is white people with the favour on our side, so it needs to be white people who raise our voices loudly and stand alongside black communities. This is not a battle for only black people to fight. It is no longer sufficient not to be racist: to feel sad and sorry. We, white people, are the ones who have made these systems, and we are in the position to help change them. If black people had been in the same positions, wouldn't the systems have been changed a long time ago? The only reason they continue not to be is because white people are still sitting in the seats, we have kept them for ourselves. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustice in our justice systems, the differences in pay, in health care, and in education. We can no longer tolerate that simply stepping out of their houses to go jogging, driving, or to reach for a cell-phone is risking black people's lives.

With all of that being said, keeping our privileged white birth-right in mind… "With great power, comes great responsibility". SO, WHO'S RESPONSIBILITY IS IT REALLY?

© 2020 Stephanie H Roodbol

Comments

Leslie McCowen from Cape Cod, USA on June 06, 2020:

I see it as being pulled over for speeding, and wonder if a may be killed, made to get out of car, car searched, drugs planted, backup cruisers arrive, threats of arrest, charged with resisting arrest, put in backseat of cruiser and “roughed up”, as Trump likes to call it. “Don’t be too nice”, he says.

In other words, terrorized by the police.

Granted, it happens to other races, too. But not on the basis of skin color. Simply for being black, you’re assumed to be a criminal.

Equality is, “here you are, ma’am. Be more careful driving. You can fight this ticket in court if you like. Watch the speed limit!”

Human/ criminal

Civility/ terror

It’s not rocket science.

Pat Price. Lake Havasu AZ on June 05, 2020:

How do you see equality?

Physical?

Intelligemce?

Wealth?

Education?

??

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on June 04, 2020:

"Our world continues to enforce that certain people are not, for no other reason than they are born a different colour." - Well, in my case it was even more extreme than that. For me growing up as a child, if You were not Romanian, You really did not matter much. You could have been Hungarian, Russian, Turkish ... those would have been way worse than being a coloured person. I do remember the first time one of my grandmas saw me entering the house with of my good friends in highschool, who happened to be a black guy. Her face went pale-white and in Romanian (as if he would have understood) she said to me: "You brought a crow home?"

"not everyone gets to grow up with the belief that everyone is equal" - Yes, certainly not. I grew-up in a dictatorship; something in between North Korea and Cuba now. Not as nice as Cuba but not as bad as North Korea. Either way, everything was controlled by the tyranical gov't. So, as children we were basically taught that Romanians were the best and everyone else was just extra in this world and for sure inferiors in respect to our importance. If we withstood the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ... weren't we in the long run simply invincible? Haha!!

It sounds ridiculous doesn't it? That's the brainswashing that took place though and if You grow up like that and never get a chance to lighten-up then, You can remain racist for life.

"This oppression exists today, no matter how rosily I live my life, no matter how much love is in my heart." - Ohh for sure. I have always mentioned that I am so lucky to not be DWB "driving while black". It's a serious bonus. I hardly ever get stopped, unless I'm speeding (I often do that). I started driving without a licence when I was 16. Got my licence when I was 18. In that time I was pulled over and got a ticket for "operating a motor vehicle without a permit" once and that's because I was stunt-driving in a residential neighbourhood like a donkey. Even back then I knew letting any of my Indian, or black friends in the car would attract attention from cops. One white kid was fine but adding colour would get risky. It's the truth.

"What we, white people, have done can never be un-done, it can never be redeemed." - Sure, it can't but I'm not dwelling on what the Roman Empire did when they invaded my ancestral Dacia. We have to work on how we can improve things now. What kind of societal change needs to be made so that minorities get justice.

"The very system that we live so comfortably within, does not support, and is in fact against, black people and other minorities." - So yes, this is what needs to be changed. Many Native Americans are living in third-world conditions and this after they survived genocide and had their lives and culture stolen from them. What have we done to right those wrongs? Nada.

We have a lot of work ahead if we wish to create lasting and meaningful change. I am an optimist though. I appreciate your article. It was nice reading and learning about your experience. You see, we are both white but with a very different background of experience and perception.

All the best!

Leslie McCowen from Cape Cod, USA on June 04, 2020:

Wonderful hub and sentiment! This generation WILL change the world for the better.

Evolution is slow.....but lovely when it happens.

NayNay2124 on June 04, 2020:

It was enlightening to hear a white person's perspective of racism in this country. I thought it was an informative and honest article. I think you make a lot of valid points.

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