Racists, I always thought, are the bad white people who shout nasty expletives and are filled with hate toward anyone of color, anyone not white. Since I’m a good white person, I can’t possibly be racist, I believed.
I’m a white woman of a certain age who grew up in middle class America in virtually all-white communities and schools. My lived experience included many lessons about race. Some of the lessons were subtle and some were direct. Some were played out on a national level. The repeated lessons had one common message: white people are superior to BIPOC.
The other insidious lesson was witnessing white people treat BIPOC any way they wanted to, with few repercussions or penalties. As if, somehow, non-whites deserved it for being inferior. I witnessed this when I lived in the east, in the midwest, and on the west coast. I witnessed this in Alaska, where indigenous Native Alaskan Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos were the predominant BIPOC.
Consciously and unconsciously, decades of this message have lasting effects on me and my behavior. White values, styles, priorities, manners, etc. are embedded deeply in me as what’s “normal,” and anything that’s different is not as good, “not normal.” One example is my thin tolerance for dialects and variations of standard English, being a writer who has studied and strives to follow all the “rules” of English grammar.
I’m working on how to unlearn these damaging lessons, on how to be anti-racist. Being judgmental and intolerant is the wrong burden to carry now, for any of us.
For more, read “White Supremacy and Me,” by Layla Saad, and watch YouTube videos by Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility.”