Dear White People

Yes I did watch the movie. Good, but not great in my opinion.

I know I’m white so this may seem a bit strange, but I’m going to try to explain people of color. I’m not the expert, but I hope that my being white helps people to understand.

I’m not claiming I am or ever have been a victim, or profiled, or anything like that. I don’t even have a lot of friends who are people of color, some co-workers, and Facebook friends, but not people I hang out with. Of course being an introvert I don’t really hang out with anyone, but my own kids.

What I do have is a desire to listen and learn. I listen as my friends speak at work, I read, a lot, Facebook posts, articles, books, etc…. I don’t blame, I don’t make excuses. So this is what I see.

Yes, racism is alive and well in America, thanks for asking. I’m a little racist. It’s true, I took that Harvard test and was disappointed in my results. But not really surprised. I grew up in a white middle class suburb and for the most part I have lived in one my entire life.

I also travel a lot, or at least I did when I was younger. I stayed up all night with strangers from foreign countries. I once even had coffee with 5 guys and we had to translate everything said not once but twice because 3 guys spoke Czech, 1 spoke only German, and I spoke only English.  I learned my white middle class American culture was not the only one, not the best, and not always the default.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my culture. I’m proud of it. It is just important for me to realize that when we talk about American culture I am the default. I am the guy people assume we are talking about in movies, newspapers, nightly news, on the Internet. When anyone speaks of Americans without any specification, they are talking about a guy like me. Though perhaps I am aged out of the default population now.

Being the default you might assume that I would get offended when people of color tell me there is systematic racism in America. Or basically I’m the problem. Except that while I am the typical American, I know I am not America. Not all black people are thugs, not all cops are murderers, not all white people are racist. I may be the average white, middle class, Christian American, but I am also an individual.

My responsibility, when someone of color says there is systematic racism, is to accept that fact. Sure if some fictional black guy, says the world is against me because I’m black, that doesn’t mean anything. When he says, “my dad had the talk with me about looking non-threatening when pulled over by the police.” I have to realize that his life is different than mine. I cannot discount his words because my experiences are different.

I think that is the hurdle most people seem to trip on. Their experiences are different. When I get pulled over I pull out my license and insurance then hold them in my hands on top of my steering wheel. In plain view. Three out of the last four times I was pulled over I received a warning. The timeline for this was a span of over 12 years. Not 52 times in just a few years. My responsibility is to accept that life and my experience are different. I will have to judge others by their words and experiences not my own.

My responsibility is to accept the fact that I sometimes have an unconscious bias and to stop denying it, especially when someone points it out. I need to take a critical look at myself and my actions and probably make some changes.

My responsibility is to stop holding my tongue when friends say or do something with bias. Not just racist memes, but unconscious attitudes and behaviors.

My responsibility is to find that area of my life where I can support change and do it. Real actions, not just write a congressman or share a #blacklivesmatter meme. As a teachers I give my students of color a voice in my room. I try to listen and implement their ideas while at the same time asking them to think critically and be accountable for following up. This is high standards, not that crap with tests.

My responsibility is to grow as a person.

My responsibility is to allow everyone their equality, and not complain that it is infringing on mine, because it isn’t.

My responsibility is to support not fight.