bear with me
This week has been full of many thoughts and questions for me. Last night, while the shootings were happening in Dallas, I was part of a group of people who gathered at the state capital and then marched down the mall. I’ve participated in rallies and protests before, but this one–I’ll admit–made me feel very white and unsafe in that whiteness. Also judged by white people witnessing this event. It was a point of internal conflict I often feel–where my heart and my anger live deep inside the pain of oppressed people–but my skin color puts me at eternal odds with my values and experience as a human being.
One of my very smart, enlightened friends, who just so happens to also be white, posted a link to this article today along with the confession that she–herself–is racist. I read the article, knowing that–to some degree–I am, too–except not in the way that’s expected of me…a pale as can be redhead with freckles and blue eyes.
My hatred is, more often that not, targeted against the privileged. Which is just another way of saying white. And I am especially bothered by the privileged and liberal. Which is difficult for me because I am, at once, white, liberal, and yes–privileged.
Mostly because–you see–I grew up poor. With less than what many of the “minorities” that lived in my neighborhood had. Worse off, supposedly. And yet–despite all the things that happened to me before the age of six–at the age of 37–I am now considered successful and educated. A solid member of the middle class.
But I STILL have such a hard time with the term privileged. Even though, as a white person, I absolutely know I am. I absolutely know there are kids who grew up as I did who had the same circumstances who wore different skin colors and could not escape as I did when I finally left at 24.
I know that, as a white person, I have the privilege of choosing to be bothered by the racism that afflicts our communities. That I can simply not log-on to social networks today and not tune in to news to avoid the reality of that burden. I know this.
And yet, as someone who grew up steeped in the oppression that is want–I don’t want to accept it. And I don’t find that I identify much with being a white person. I don’t see the world through white eyes. I see the world through the eyes of an empath–always way too good at putting myself in other people’s shoes–even though I will be the first to admit I can’t even imagine. But that’s how I live my life–always noticing the things others miss and always wondering how it feels to be someone else. And as a human being, I’d like to think I’m able to do that. Because–to me–I am more like that crying child missing his father than the white cop holding him down.
I want to point out how I am different–how I am also oppressed–how it took me years and years and years to get out of the cape that almost drowned me.
And then I realize that the only thing that ever stopped me from leaving that place was me–and when my Mama died–suddenly all things became mine. And I could leave.
At the same time, I think how some people view whiteness is more complicated by what’s being depicted because being an impoverished white person is a state of contradictions that involves much shame and self-loathing along with a keen sense of responsibility and a heartbreaking hopelessness that your experience matters to absolutely no one–and that–while you will always fit in–your story will rarely be told.
I can’t stand white people. But most especially the white people who share my values, have similar bank accounts, and live in bubbles they’ve mass produced.
They aggravate me. And I find them everywhere–just waiting to reflect a me I can’t stand–a me I have yet to reconcile. I found them at TFA–just when I thought I had it figured out–and it was a violent confrontation that made me question absolutely everything about myself and my existence. But moreso–what was truly good.
Identity is a complicated thing–and I often feel conflicted. I’ve always felt like I’ve straddled fences–existed just outside of everything. Isolated, but also safe–alone and able to choose when to engage. A type of privilege, sure, but also a heavy burden.
I’ll admit forever that I have a problem with white people–but the truth is I have a problem with me and the choices that were made for me and the shame I inherited simply because my skin didn’t match my parents’ nonexistent bank accounts. Where does my story fit in? I still feel like I’m caught in the middle. And I still hate how helpless I feel to change any of it. And I fear all of this makes me the exact person I hate the most.