All of us who are white in America were born into a country steeped in racism. Even for those of us who were taught that racism is wrong, that we are all equal, all God’s beloved children, regardless of the color of our skin, racism was something dark and deeply troubling we had to contend with, something that colored our whiteness.
It shaped our sense of self, our sense of justice, fair play, and compassion for others. It fostered a sense of collective guilt and shame for white ancestors who enslaved others or looked askance at those who did. For those today who persist in holding racist views. Even for beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins who ought to know better, and yet through the occasional disparaging remark and negative attitude revealed a meanness of spirit toward a whole race of people simply because of the color of their skin.
I learned at an early age that good-hearted people, people I loved and admired and thought I could trust, held racists views. That they could be, God-forbid, racists themselves. Who held views that filled me with shame and sadness.
I was fortunate to be raised by a mother who was not prejudiced, who spoke out against those who were, and who taught me through her words and actions to understand how wrong racism is.
I have been fortunate in that all of my brushes with “blackness,” black people and black culture, have been positive, enriching experiences, and have colored my view of blackness with a deep admiration and respect. My one negative experience was no exception.
Today, when the whole world is rising up to reject racism, to protest against its continued brutality, is a time for all of us to reflect upon our own “Brushes with Blackness,” as I call it here, the experiences that have colored our view of what black lives and black culture mean to us, to examine if we in any way contribute to those negative connotations implicit in racists views.
Do we merely look askance at the racist views and systems embedded in our society? Or do we do what we can in our small corner of the world to not only oppose those views, but to celebrate the beauty and braveness and wisdom found in black communities and black culture?
That’s what I’m hoping to do on these pages in a short series examining my “Brushes with Blackness.” This is the first. Three more follow.
Brushes with Blackness: Best Friends and Bullies
I think it is important to recognize that we all carry racism within us, even those raised with social justice parents, as you and I did. Recently for example I inadvertently excluded a woman of color when naming the women in a group I was in. I “forgot” her, in the way that white people don’t see blacks. I wrote her after and apologized, and we have had a healthy dialogue. But if someone like me, who has worked actively on dismantling my white conditioning, does something like this, anyone can.
Thank you for sharing that, Louisa. I think we all are partly blind to our prejudices. that you called your friend, that we’re having these conversations, hard as they are is good.
laura bruno lilly said:
I look forward to these posts, Deborah. Just the title alone is quite revealingly unique.
Saw your town on national news last night – thought of you and knew you’d be working something out on your end, in your own way to add to this ongoing theme.
It all counts.
Hubby found an excellent newsclip from NBC interview with Dr. MLK in 1967…so succinct and eye opening then – how about now? (we’re not on facebook, but it was on NBC facebook site)
hugs to my flower sister
Thank you, Laura. My granddaughter and I happened to be driving down the freeway when they blocked off exits and everything came to a standstill as the shoot-out was occurring not so far from us. No one knows, or at least I haven’t heard, why this man started a rampage against the local police department. He wasn’t even from this area. Fortunately the police injuries were not fatal. It seems there is an overload of chaos and confusion going on around us, what with this shoot-out,Trumps violent rhetoric and instability, the pandemic, the lock-down, the mask wars, the protests, and the riots. Of all this, the world-wide protests stand out as a positive force for good, and I am heartened by it. Thank you for the MLK link. I’ll check it out. A long-time hero of mine and so many.
cindy knoke said:
Good for you. The line is drawn.
It is. Thanks