Now that I have your attention, and now that I have outed myself, I hope you consider walking alongside me through the rest of this story; however, if you stop here, I understand. After all, this is not about my feelings. ________________________________________________________________
Learning how to unpack and accept my white fragility, white supremacy, white saviorism, white guilt, and white privilege has not been an easy ride, but it has been one brought on by necessity. This story is not a request for pity or for understanding. It is not me reaching out for validation or a pat on the back. This is a raw representation of what life looks like for me and me alone.
As a straight white male, I understand that I am so deeply rooted in a position of privilege, that even writing about this is probably done so in a way that highlights biases that I can’t even see within myself at this point in time. However, I must write it regardless; because, if anything, it may provide an opportunity for other white folks to look at themselves and how they are positioned in society.
The other piece of information that I should lay out before I dive into this is as follows: I am a white Adoptive Parent and a Foster Parent to four Black children and one Latina child. To say that speaking about these things is a necessity is absolutely an understatement. There is no time to waste and there are no feelings (be that feelings of other white folks or feelings of my own) that can stand in the way of letting truth and justice be placed at the forefront of these words.
Remember, I said this was going to be raw.
I can admit, beyond and without regard for my own feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment, that I held deeply rooted racist ideologies for years without even knowing it. In fact, as I type this, I can clearly remember thoughts and micro-aggressions I have had about my own children from just a few days ago. As much as that brings me to tears to even admit, and even more so to write that for entire world to see, it is the truth. The fact that I could ever have those types of thoughts or feelings unconsciously popup about my own children makes me think that racism is inherently a part of my DNA. These roots were much deeper than I anticipated.
When I was younger, I thought I understood racism. I thought that I could make racist comments and racist jokes all in good fun, but that it would not mean that I was racist; because, I truly didn’t feel in my heart that I was racist. That was not true, and I see the aftermath of that years later. That understanding and those opinions were deeply rooted in my own white supremacy and my own white privilege. I would never experience true consequences for saying those things, believing those things, or thinking those things. I came out of every one of those discussions, thoughts, and experiences unscathed…completely and utterly protected by my whiteness.
I know that I benefit from a system that is specifically set up to pave the way to make me successful at the costs of the lives of People of Color. I cannot shake the guilt, anger, and outrage at that very fact. However, my feelings do not change the same cycle that has been going on for hundreds of years. My white guilt and my white fragility do nothing to change that system. Those two things continue to fuel the system that continuously oppress people that do not look like me or live like me. Therefore, I must own that. I must understand my complicity in that. I must verbalize that. I must write about it.
Ok, so what now?
Over the past few years, I have been trying to figure out where to go as I continue to accept and unpack these things. I have been trying to figure out what moving forward looks like. I have been trying to figure out what my personal responsibility is as a father who is raising children of color. There is one thing that I am certain of, and that is that I must provide them with opportunities (away from whiteness) to grow and build strong identities. That is the priority over anything and everything when it comes to my children. However, I am still stuck with this question: How can I or do I even have the ability to become a catalyst of positive change in my community or in society in general when it comes to racism?
The only answer I have right now is:
I must weave the undying necessity of fighting against racism into the very fabric of my being.
Pipe Dreams for Sale?
I can openly admit that, in theory, this sounds like a good plan, but it may also seem as though I would be putting a band-aid on a gushing wound and screaming out, “Look, I helped!”. However, that is where my mindset lies currently. The change must start within me and continue within me as a I grow and learn from People of Color and from those embedded in history as changemakers.
In light of that understanding, there is one thing I am certain of, and that is that I will always do my best to stand up, speak out, and take action against the aspects of whiteness that perpetuate the system and that are harmful towards People of Color. I will learn how to weaponize my privilege and weaponize my whiteness in a way that will chip away at the system that benefits me. There are many who may not believe me. There are many who say that this is unrealistic. However, I am telling you that I do not have a choice but to figure out how to do this.
I know that I must take responsibility for being instrumental in helping racism maintain its roots in this country. I hate that idea. It makes me nauseous. It has brought into a deep sense of self-loathing. However, those feelings DO NOT MATTER in the grand scheme of things. I must do everything within my power to try to work on dismantling this system.
I am no savior. There is a 100% chance that People of Color do not need another white dude with a savior complex running around pretending that he can tear down systemic racism by way of stories/articles/social media posts. However, I will do my very best to help bring change and perspective to the white people who participate in pushing this cancerous system forward every single day. This cannot be a hopeless endeavor.
Ok, but could you learn to say things more nicely?
As of the year 2020 and at 34 years of age, my answer is this:
PEACE AND KINDNESS ARE NOT AN OPTION.
White people that demand and expect peace and kindness to be a means of creating and maintaining white allies when the issue of racism is one that was born out of, deeply rooted in, defined by, and continues to be upheld by violence and white supremacy at any cost, are demanding that softness and feelings be put above the necessity of fighting against a system that is deadly towards people that are not white.
I’ll be damned if I ever choose peace, kindness, feelings, and the comfortability of myself and other white people over the lives of my Black and Latina children.
This is why Justice must be the explicit standard Over white Feelings with no exceptions when it comes to the issue of racism.