Racism, Denial and Trayvon

5 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

 

I’m a white woman.  I have brownish red hair that I dye blond every eight weeks or so, depending on how motivated I am to get rid of the roots coming through.  I have green eyes and freckles.  I try to tan, but every summer I’m reminded that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be anything other than pink if I’m in the sun for longer than an hour.  I have no other perspective from which to view the world than my own.  My own consists of being a white woman in America.  Period. 

The last few weeks have been tough for people of all colors in America.  The great divide that racism has wrought in our nation is at the forefront of every news outlet.  I’m not sure they’re the best avenue to get our truth from, though.  I think honest dialogue, humility and open minds will do us more good than watching CNN, FOX or MSNBC.   I think that one-on-one human interaction is where healing begins, even though I’m writing from behind this little computer screen.  Can I admit I have no idea where to even start the conversation?  I just know that no matter how awkward or uncomfortable, the conversation needs to start. 

First, I’d like to say that my heart aches for Trayvon’s mom.  I wish that I could hold her in my arms and cry with her.  I have an 18 year old son and if he never walks through the door again, I hope others will hold me as my world falls apart around me. I promise I will not care what color the arms comforting me happen to be if I’m ever in her shoes. I’ve thought about her, in particular, a lot over the last few weeks.  I’m so sorry that her son is gone.  I’m so very, very sorry.   

I’m angry that the media called George Zimmerman a “White-Hispanic”.  That is a word that was made up during this trial and it ticks me off.  As much as I dislike the little boxes we all check to identify ourselves for some arbitrary identification, there is no box that says “White-Hispanic”.  To make up that word for this particular trial makes me angry because it feels like the media intentionally sought out a way to make this about white people and black people.  George Zimmerman would not be classified as a white man in any other circumstance and it feels wrong to classify him as such to intentionally stir the pot of racism.  That’s not OK.

As a white woman, I will no longer pretend like I don't know anyone who uses the term "nigger" on a regular basis, because I do.  I would probably go so far as to say that every single white person who lives in American has heard, used or made reference to that word.  Lying doesn't help us become who we should be and I refuse to pander to anyone who continues to pretend that that term isn't used, and especially to anyone that continues to use it in hate and ignorance.  I also refuse to pretend like it's OK for a black person to call me a "cracker" or a "honky".  It's not and you can't do that without me speaking up and saying you're part of the problem.  If we want real change, then we must change and be honest about it.  No more lying or pandering to those that are “tolerant” in public, but laugh at racist jokes and jabs behind closed doors. 

We’ve got to start a dialogue built on something other than ugliness and hurt.  I have no idea how to go about that, but this is the best that I’ve got right now.  I want to be better.  I want my country to be better.  I’m clueless and just feel awkward even having the discussion, but it must be done.  We must be fearless and humble. 

I do not subscribe to the illusion that the starting point in America is equal for everyone.  It isn’t.  Those that are born in the ghetto do not get the same starting point as those born on Park Avenue, or even middle class suburbia.  I do not believe that God has made one race less, or greater, than another. 

I do not believe that racism is dead or that people are "color blind".  I don't believe that cultural differences should create a line that can't be crossed.  I didn't choose to be white anymore than a black person chooses to be black.  It's simply how we were created.  I do not believe that God is pleased with "white pride" nor "black pride".  Pride, by definition, should be something you were, at the very least, actively involved in accomplishing.  Color doesn't qualify.  Being proud of your culture is much different than being proud of your color.  I wish we could talk more about that and dialogue with kindness and understanding. 

Recently, I was having a discussion about race with an acquaintance who adamantly refuses to admit that racism still exists, although she just as adamantly says that she doesn't want her white kids marrying anyone who isn't white.  Her view is this:  "Making that choice just makes your life too hard".  (I absolutely refuse to type what I think about that statement here, so don't ask.)   Here's the thing:  I don't think she means to be offensive.  I genuinely do not believe that her heart is set upon hate, or to intentionally degrade an entire race of people.  That doesn't take away from the fact that it absolutely does just that, whether intentionally or not.  She was horrified when I pointed this out to her and I, admittedly, let it drop. 

I do not believe that Trayvon Martin’s death should be overlooked and at the same time, I’m having a very difficult time reconciling what I saw in the trial with convicting George Zimmerman of a race related crime.  I don’t think he was guilty of a race crime, but I don’t think he was innocent of murder, either.  I’m so torn and I feel angry and confused.  How do I reconcile those feelings?  How do I even begin to dialogue and put words to my feelings in a way that doesn’t offend?   Offending someone is so easy these days, but I don’t want to become numb to what is truly offensive to someone’s soul, either. 

I know everyone reading this isn’t a Christian, but do me a favor and read this with an open heart, OK?  The same acquaintance who doesn’t want her kids to marry outside her race attends a church that my family once attended.  That’s how we know one another. The congregation is filled with every race under the sun…black, white, red, Polynesian, mixed, Asian, etc… Hanging in a hallway just off the main walkway in the church is a depiction of Jesus.  In this painting a smiling, laughing Christ is having a sweet moment with his followers.  It's one of the few depictions that I've ever seen where joy seems to radiate from Christ, instead of the somber pictures that are usually out there. This picture depicts the joy of Christ, not the suffering.  I appreciate that difference in this picture.  Maybe that's why it caught my eye...I don't know.

What I do know is that that isn't what kept me coming back to this depiction over and over and over.  Something just pulled at me about this picture.  And then it hit me.  Christ is depicted as a blue eyed, brown haired white man.  To suggest that the starting point for America isn't "white" is clearly inaccurate based on this picture alone.  Here's a clue:  Christ wasn't white.  He was brown.  Very, very brown.  He had black hair...the Bible says it was woolly.  He had dark brown eyes and He was fully Jewish.  He wasn't white. The dichotomy in that picture is what kept me coming back to it.  The beauty and joy of that smile is how I see Christ in my mind's eye, but the sparkling blue eyes weren't accurate and something bugged me that anyone thought it was OK to take a fully Jewish Christ and make Him white. That this isn't relevant to most white people bugs me, too.  The starting point for truth shouldn't be a color; it should be our hearts. 

I want to admit to every single person reading this that I’m clueless as to where to start having this kind of dialogue, but it’s so necessary.  I do not want my children to grow up believing that the flesh colored crayon in the Crayola box is reflective of truth.  I do not want my children to grow up in a world that the color of someone’s skin directs anyone's choices in how to treat another human being created in the image of God Himself. This works both ways, by the way.  I do not "owe" anyone because I am white.  But, I will not pretend that racism does not exist or that we have quelled the tide of oppression.  I will not pretend that even when we don't mean to offend, we can still do so and it matters. I want to be able to talk honestly and listen with my heart.