I was taking a course in Chicago when one day the instructor said, “White people are the problem. You can act nice around them but you’ll never really be one of their friends. They are different around us. And when they are alone in their homes surrounded by nothing but white faces you better believe it’s n-word this and n-word that.”
Of the 19 people in the room I was the only white face. A grumbling rose as I spoke out of turn.
“That’s simply not true! Not all white people are like that. No one has ever said that word in my home!”
The course I was taking is designed and targeted toward Chicago’s underprivileged. While being a POC ≠ being poor, living in dense cities drastically increases those odds. So the majority of the people who got accepted into this course were not white.
I was interviewed and accepted into this program for two reasons. 1. Statistically I should be in jail or dead of an overdose. 2. My name sounded black to the person setting up interviews (he told me this).
Later that day, on a break, my colleagues would console me. “Jenée, we know you’re not like that.” But I wasn’t upset because someone thought I was a racist. I was upset because someone thought all white people secretly despised anything non-white. And that someone was laying deep grooves on impressionable minds and people in desperate situations.
One of my colleagues confessed that I was the first white person she had ever known. Raised by her grandmother, she was constantly told she was “pretty for a black girl” but never just pretty.
When she would walk down the street and cross a white person she would duck down her head and stare at the ground. She told me she didn’t do that anymore after getting to know me.
But it felt like any good I could possibly do would be undone by more powerful voices. I thought about what the instructor said. Even if it wasn’t true, it was true for her. She had to have been through some serious shit with white people to believe what she did.
Some white people are real fuckers.
So, when nobody but white people are around, what do I say that I wouldn’t in front of a POC? Nothing.
In fact, I get a lot of shit from white people about how “politically correct I am” (not just about racism, but LGBQT issues, persons with disabilities and much more) . When I wrote the article You Can’t Be Racist Against White People plenty of white people slung hateful insults at me and berated me for being a “SJW snowflake”.
But something else important happened. I got this response to my story. Of the 45,000+ people who have viewed it, one man changed his mind. Here’s a little taste of how our conversation shifted:
An excerpt from his first comment on my article:
“Hill Billies” are the butt of many a joke in modern culture, if you don’t believe me I suggest you check out a VERY popular First Person Shooter series called Borderlands.
We, as a culture find them HILARIOUS! and because they are white, it is OK to make fun of them. Just like it is OK to put down red necks (referring to the sun burn that many farmers get working in the fields) and country bumpkins (rural folk) in general.
I challenge you to show me how they are NOT an abused and unpopular minority.
In All Sincerity,
To his last comment on my article:
I don’t know what happened to those people to feel hurt by whites, but I do work to show them that I am not those people and that I am listening.
I got yelled at recently by a black gentleman because I told him that shooting police officers was not a good response to Police shooting Black People. He told me to read The New Jim Crow Laws by Michelle Alexander.
Nevertheless I will have learned a great deal from him. People attack you with slurs and curse words because they are afraid. Afraid of the truth. If they are racist, then they are no better in many ways then those they hate. And it scares them, they like to think that they are morally superior, which is the foundation of all bigotry. :D
Racism is a huge problem. We’re told that we can’t solve problems that big. Those problems are too old, too powerful and too deep. That we should keep our heads down and fix our own lives.
I write because I can’t keep my head down. I write because it’s one of the best ways I know to fight a senseless history that I am inextricably linked to.
I write because I need your help changing the future, one mind at a time.