Tuesday, August 18, 2015

it's because I'm White, isn't it?

I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated that groups of people who preach love and acceptance won't love and accept White people because we are White. I'm frustrated that if I, a White woman, express an opinion about race in the United States, I'm "privileged," "ignorant," "biased," "bigotted," and "intolerant."
Who cares that I've done all that I can to get an outside perspective -- taking classes; reading literature and essays and histories and newspapers; talking to people of other races about their experiences; attending cultural events NOT to say, 'Oh, hey, that Colorfest though,' but to say 'Excuse me? Can you tell me about why this is important to you? Why this matters? What you love about it? What you would like me, someone who is different than you, to know?'; asking the harder, more awkward questions so that I can learn and understand something I've never experienced; attempting to help by becoming educated and active in America in its entirety, not just my White part of it.
It seems that many don't care. Many don't care that there ARE White people who support them, who want to know them, who want to help them, and who want to be equal. Yes -- be EQUAL. NOT be called names. NOT be overlooked for scholarships, jobs, awards, even justice, because we "aren't colored." NOT be beaten down and shoved aside because we "don't understand" and "cause all of the bad things to happen" because of our Whiteness.
Yes, I don't understand completely. I recognize that. I hear stories and I'm shocked. I see the way people get treated and it angers and saddens me. It spurs me to change minds and hearts. It's hard to do where I live, because the population is different. But if I see injustice, or inequality, or meanness, I at least try. Though I don't understand the depth of sorrow and pain that past and present generations perpetuate, I know that many are trying.
Yes. There is racism. Yes. There is inequality. Yes. I don't understand what it's like to walk down a street of white people and be looked at like I'm a freak. 

But I DO understand what it's like to be in a classroom full of minority students and a minority professor and be completely, humiliatingly shut down because of an honest, sincere comment about someone else's experience as a person of color -- and I never spoke in that class again. 

I DO know what it's like to be called a racist because I disagreed with a Latino's opinion.

I DO know what it's like to be called a racist because I disciplined two Black children at the museum where I work when they weren't sharing -- and the only other child, a White child, was following the rules.

I DO know what it's like to walk down a street of full of people of color and be stared at, glared at, and be whispered about because "here come those White kids" with our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with our "White charity," with our "privilege." 

I don't understand it all. But I understand a little.
I'm sorry that there are jerks in the world. I'm sorry that there are people who call names, who pass people over for jobs, who give worse service, who won't listen, who continue to express hate and malice based on color.
However. I refuse to be sorry for being White. I refuse to acknowledge arguments that blame Whiteness alone for social problems. I refuse to accept inequality against Whites, just as I refuse to accept inequality towards those of other races.
We are all, first and foremost, Americans. And as such, as Americans, we each deserve things. Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness. Freedom to laugh and love and receive aid when it is needed, from those around us and from higher powers.
No one, not one of us, deserves ANYTHING based on the color of our skin. I, as a White woman, do not DESERVE a scholarship. I do not DESERVE a job. I do not DESERVE anything. I work hard for everything that I have. And I work hard to make this world better for everyone who lives in it, no matter what color people may be. You may not think so, because I am White. But boy, let me tell you. If ever there was an advocate for equality for ALL -- you're looking at her. And that includes EVERY color. Because underneath each color is a living, breathing, thinking, hoping human being who deserves rights simply because they live. Every. Single. One.
If you ever see injustice, speak up. If you ever see inequality, confront it. It doesn't matter who it is against -- raise your voice and question. But do so with the understanding that it might have been a mistake. It might not have been based on the color of skin. It might have been done out of ignorance, instead of meanness. So ask the questions. Get people thinking. Change comes when people's HEARTS are touched, when people's MINDS are opened. And hearts will not be touched, nor will minds open, when there is abuse, rudeness, incivility, and attacks on race.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

70 years ago, when the world began anew. . .

I missed marking VJ Day yesterday.
The war is over. The conflict has ended. People can breathe again. Tents and tanks are put away; men and women board ships for home. Cities, demolished, start to rebuild. Countries, frightened, weep with relief; weep with sorrow. Deaths are mourned; homecomings are celebrated. Loss is accute. Life is accute, be it present or gone.
Confusion. Exultation. Shock. Rejoicing. Some wondering what will become of them; some certain that everything will be alright from now on. Some surrounded by death and pain, silent; some surrounded by life and joy, clamour.
The war is over. The conflict has ended. Life can begin again.
The more I study WWII, the more I'm convinced that there will always be good people in this world. People who fight for what they believe in, regardless of the cost. And I mean this for ALL sides of this conflict: the Axis forces, the Allied forces, and all those people caught in the struggle.
I believe that most Axis members weren't bad people -- they were good people who trusted their leaders and sacrificed for their countries. Granted, this was mostly the young, while the older generations watched in fear. Terrified to do *their* version of the right thing, but trying through underground networks or by attempting to shelter their children. Not bad people -- people trapped by circumstance; children raised to spread an idea, warped though it was.
I believe that most Allied members weren't bad people -- they were good people who saw a monstrous threat intent on swallowing humanity and spitting it out as something which was, to them, horrific. And so they fought back, for their families, their freedoms, their way of life. They sought to halt an idea, a system that seemed intent on the world's destruction.
Both sides had a goal. Both sides had a belief. Both sides, though one is easily marked the bad and the other just as easily marked the good, were full of good people trying to do what they believed was the right thing. I know that this analysis is somewhat simplified -- it doesn't account for every variable, because that would take pages and pages of documented research to present a sound argument. But simply put, everyone had something they believed in: the Axis' New World; the Allied idea of freedom and safety for everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, or lifestyle.
What to us is clearly an evil may be obviously good to someone else. Take the current conflicts with ISIS and ISIL: many of them truly believe that what they do is right. And what do we support and perpetuate that others in the world see as evil?
Good people do bad things -- sometimes we know what we're doing is wrong, and we feel too frightened or too unconcerned to change it. Sometimes we don't know it. Does that make those people bad? Evil? I don't believe that it does.
Our perspectives shape the way we see good and evil. I believe that if everyone looked harder for these perspectives, to understand how and why people think and believe the way that they do -- I believe that there would be more love. Less hate. More talk. Less gunfire.
I'm glad the war ended the way that it did. I sorrow for the loss of innocent life that led to Japanese surrender. I understand that many believe that it was the only way, and I have often thought about other possibilities. I wonder what would have happened if talking had been an option, if a greater respect for all human life could have made things change. It didn't happen that way -- and so we can appreciate what goodness DID come from the ending of the Pacific conflicts, and think of all the goodness that can be found in stories of people throughout the terrible time that was WWII.

Monday, May 25, 2015

. . .

A man called my coworker a "nigger" today -- now that I've had a few hours to quash the tsunami of rage that welled up inside me when I heard the story, I feel pity for the man's ignorance and the example he is setting for his children, and a great deal of sadness at my coworker's remark of "I'm used to it."