About this post: I’ve not been able to get the image of George Floyd out of my mind since I watched the video of his murder. For a number of years now, I’ve thought about my privilege as a person who was born white. I’ve wondered how I can help be an ally to people of colour, who face racism every single day of their lives. I have a voice…and I choose to speak up. I hope this post will give you a few thoughts to reflect on. RACISM HAS TO END!
I have five black cousins.
One is little and completely and utterly shy of me.
Another thinks I’m the most hilarious person in the world because I accidentally swore in front of him one time.
Another is an unbelievable athlete in both soccer and basketball, is an honours student, and is enjoying his teen years to the fullest.
One attends university to study music. His beautiful voice a huge contribution to musicals and concerts throughout his 20 years.
And one recently got married…is living a beautiful life with her husband, whom she adores…and had every family member on edge a few weeks ago while we awaited news of a medical procedure (to which I prayed repeatedly and burst into tears when I learned things were clear.)
All are beautiful, kind, caring, loving, and very much loved individuals.
Human beings…making a difference in our family and the world they live in.
What pisses me off…outrages me more than you can possibly imagine…is that these beautiful people are treated differently from the dozens of other cousins I love…simply because of the COLOUR OF THEIR SKIN!
In July 2016, I woke up and completely checked my white privilege. I was hanging out on Facebook at a time that “live video” was fairly new and you were notified of live broadcasts whether you followed the person or not. Being interested in all things social media-related…I clicked on a link that popped on my screen and sat in PURE HORROR…as I watched a man be murdered right before my eyes.
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African-American, was pulled over while driving in Minnesota. His girlfriend, trying to get help and not being able to do anything as it all played out…for fear of being hurt as well…turned on Facebook Live so she could have proof of what was happening…while their little girl sat in the back seat.
Her daddy was shot and died.
I couldn’t get the image or the sounds of screaming out of my head and still can’t…but the thought that I would never ever have to film a loved one being killed, let alone not be able to wrap them in my arms while they died but instead have to hold a camera as “proof” of what was happening…was heart-breaking. I felt SHAME…that the whiteness of my skin, put me in a privileged position over someone else.
I woke up.
I vowed at that point…to treat every single person with love, empathy, and kindness. I dove deep into my feelings and understanding of the black people I’ve had interactions with throughout the years…and realized that maybe, possibly, I too have inadvertently been racist!!! ME!!! Racist!!! A disgusting and horrible word but one I needed to own as through the years, maybe I HAVE treated people differently because of the colour of their skin. Maybe I was more inclined to chat with and joke with the white person in the grocery store lineup before the black person…simply because I’d been programmed to believe that black people are different from white people when the reality is WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER and yet, WE ARE ALL THE SAME!
The second I checked my white privilege, I began to INTENTIONALLY smile more, speak more, interact more with people of colour in the supermarket, on the sidewalk, on social media…going completely out of my way to be nicer which oddly, felt like reverse racism of sorts but I did it…and continued to do it…until it felt natural. Until I re-programmed my brain and began to treat everyone the same.
Until that moment, I would have vehemently denied that I was a racist…and I still have a difficult time using that word as the term “racist” holds such ugly connotation…but it was the only word that worked. I believe that I was treating people of colour differently because of fear, lack of understanding of cultural differences, and ignorance. While I’ve never felt superior to anyone…which the term racist implies…I was inadvertently not treating people equal either. Or else, why on earth would I joke with the white lady in the supermarket lineup…and say nothing to the black one?
I am well aware now…after much personal exploration…of what white privilege means. It has NOTHING to do with money in the way the word “privilege” has always meant to me…and everything to do with the very fact that being born white, automatically gives me an unfair advantage over someone else…even in the exact same social, political and economic circumstances.
That my white son..who is the exact same age as his black cousin…would never be pulled over in his car AND SHOT…simply because of the colour of his skin. But that his black cousin, is automatically at an unfair disadvantage.
That’s fucking gross.
This week…again, I watched on social media as another man was murdered right before my eyes. I heard him begging to be allowed to breathe. I listened as people who were filming the event, who couldn’t step in for fear of being harmed themselves but filmed the incident for PROOF of what was happening…begged and pleaded for George Floyd’s life.
I have watched two men die.
I never want to see that again.
I cannot get the images out of my mind and yet, this racism is happening EVERY SINGLE DAY!
So…what can we do? What can white people do to make a change as God knows these black men aren’t doing anything to deserve the treatment they’re receiving.
One thing I suggest is to USE YOUR VOICE and be an ally for people of colour. Listen to what they’re telling you, learn about their culture, respect them, teach your children about racism and SPEAK UP when you see an injustice.
Check your white privilege. Dive deep into your heart and soul and really and truly ask yourself…are you treating every person equal?
If the answer is NO…then make a change.
Because I have 5 absolutely beautiful cousins who I dearly love, who more than deserve to be treated the exact same way as everyone else.
Because Philando Castile, George Floyd…and DOZENS of other black boys and men…did not deserve to die.
Beautifully written Colleen.A great reminder for all of us to think deep.One of your black cousins is my grandson and he is a wonderful young man and we love him dearly.love Aunt Bettyp
He sure is!!
Such a heartbreaking reality!
It is…and I think we have to do everything we possibly can to change it.
You are so right ,things have to change it peeves me to no end to see how people are so ignorant to many nationalities , I have seen it in Canada and the USA . Didn’t matter if the people were Asian , people of colour , from India or somewhere else people can be very nasty even to their own family and friends. If you can’t say anything nice say nothing my mom always taught us to respect everyone and love one another regardless of religious beliefs and colour of your skin. As we taught our children. Love and take care Marion Murphy
Well said! I think there are few people in America these days that don’t have black or brown family members. In my extended family, we have Filipino, black, Asian, native Australian and probably a few other ethnicities in the mix. All good people, going about their lives. I do not understand the hate. And am so angry that once again we are at this point. Has America learned nothing?