I saw this quote tonight on Tumblr, and I had to share:
Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive simpletons.
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.
This is a perfect summary of the long path I’m currently traveling. It’s a journey I began after taking a course called Racism in America, which was the most powerful semester-long experience I’ve ever had.
Confession: Before this course, I was that white girl. I was the girl who thought she was so clever when she commented on the unfairness of having a BET without a WET. I was the girl who gave a presentation in high school on why affirmative action is no longer necessary in our “post-racial” America. I was that girl.
From the bottom of my heart, I want to apologize for being that girl. I’m beyond ashamed of who I was, what I said, and any pain that I might have caused because of it.
The professor of the Racism in America shook me out of the placated hypnosis that my own privilege had created, and opened my eyes to the nasty, ugly way that the world really works. The ways in which people in this country are still beaten down and actively oppressed because of the way their bodies were created. I saw the lie that is “liberty and justice for all”, and I was revolted to think about how glibly I had participated in such a system.
I’m not a good enough writer to describe what it’s like to have the familiar world pulled down around you and replaced with an entirely new one. If you’ve seen the Matrix, you’ll understand when I say this was my red pill experience. I couldn’t close my eyes anymore to the statistics, the studies, the actual testimonies of living, breathing human beings whose suffering was hidden in plain sight.
First it was racism. Then the other scales fell from my eyes as well: ableism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, and my own personal poison, sexism. The lessons started in the classroom, and they’ve continued online. I’ve been fortunate enough to find several online communities where I could read the testimonies of people who are on the receiving end of all that is wrong with our society, and they have taught me so much. They’ve entirely reworked the way that I see the world, and while it’s much more painful this way, I would never want to close my eyes to the reality of the world again.
I’m not here to write a lesson on privilege of any form. I’m a strong believer in the idea that someone with privilege shouldn’t be giving the lessons, they should be receiving them. There are plenty of resources on the subject written by people who live racism/transphobia/homophobia/etc every day, and they’re the ones you should go to if you want to learn more about these subjects. If you want to learn about sexism, well, stick around, because I’m sure I’ll be writing about that frequently 😉
Instead, I just want this to be an apology, and a promise. An apology for any harm I have caused, or am still unwittingly causing. I’m doing my best to learn and change as fast and as sensitively as I can, but I’m afraid that sometimes I learn by sticking my foot in my mouth. I promise that, if you help me check my own privilege, I will do my very best to not make the same mistakes again.
I want to be the best ally I can be for social justice, and I hope you’ll find that I’m a very eager, if imperfect, student.