Racism … whether you think you have experienced it or not, you have. You have either been hurt by it or benefited from it.
At some point in history, it was decided the very foundation of our worth was the color of our skin. The decision was made over and over again in every action and inaction we as a society took. It was used as justification for cruelty and inhumanity. It was used to empower some while diminishing others.
There is this image of racism: white supremacy, slavery, and police brutality. That is definitely one side, an extreme side. It’s not the only side.
I am a racist.
I have people in my life that I love of all different races. I have never been hateful towards anyone because of their skin color. To you I am not the face of racism.
But I am.
And that’s the problem.
I am a product of my society. Within me are deeply rooted stereotypes about people different from me. Ugly thoughts I didn’t know were ugly because I was taught they were the truth.
Growing up I didn’t understand this side of me because I was kind and welcoming to everyone. How could I be a racist?
More harmful than any single thought I could possess was my blind devotion to thoughtlessness.
I don’t know what it’s like to be black and I never will. I exist in a world where I can actively choose not to want to know.
I can make the choice to look the other way and I’d be lying if I said that I never have. I have choices afforded to me because of the color of skin. Choices others do not have. These choices may benefit me at the expense of someone else.
I have lived a life with various challenges, but not one of them had anything to do with the color of my skin. I was never denied access to any place or opportunity I wanted to pursue because of my skin color. I never had to wonder if negative things happened to me because of the color of my skin.
I had the freedom to just exist.
I am a racist because I benefit from a system that oppresses others that are different from me. I am a racist because I can make a well meaning yet hurtful comment toward a black person without truly understanding, regardless of the intention, that it was still wrong. I am a racist because I perpetuated the problem by denying I was at the core of the problem.
I am working to become an anti-racist. The things I learned in my formative years were not my fault. As an adult I no longer have that excuse. I have the responsibility to step back, take pause, and truly embrace an awareness of my racist roots. I need to challenge these beliefs in order to dismantle them. I need to unlearn.
Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate, blogger and Certified Peer Support Specialist. You can find her on social media by searching #Laurakaponeris1in5.