Editor’s note: A racial slur appears in this post. The author of this post recalls a time when it was thrown at her. We hope that you will understand by the way that this word hurt her that this type of language and the racism behind it are never acceptable.
Dear Non-POC (people of color),
I want to talk to you about racism. I know…hot topic these days. But please, just keep reading. I have dealt with racism my entire life, and I want to share something with you.
Please, when you talk about racism, do not make excuses for it and say that there’s more to racism than race. The actual definition is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” So before you try to ‘whitesplain’ to someone of a different race about racism, I want you to think about this.
I grew up in a town of 1500 people where I was the ethnicity at my school. I was surrounded by white people and expected to act a certain way (p.s. I’m half white, but I don’t look like I am). When I was in junior high, I experienced the worst (at that point in my life) showcase of racism. It wasn’t the first, definitely not the last, but this particular incident stands out to me for a lot of different reasons.
My closest friends started calling me racist names and started treating me poorly. They began turning their backs to me, would throw things at me, etc. I walked down the hallways in my school and walked past teachers who heard these students calling me racist names, and instead of them doing something about it, they turned a blind eye. Not ONE teacher stood up for me. Not ONE teacher supported me. And one day, after my dad picked me up and was driving us home, I asked him, “Dad, what does the word gook mean?” He slammed on the brakes and asked me where I heard this from, visibly angry. I explained everything that had been going on and who was calling me names. He turned the car around and drove back to the school and walked straight into the principal’s office. Now stop for a second and think about that. I didn’t even know the meaning of this word: how did these other kids? Where did they hear it from?
Those ‘friends’ ended up getting a slap on the wrist, and did it stop? Nope. They were just quieter about it. But you know what? My dad became my friend when I needed him. Yes, he was still my dad, but we hung out like friends. We went rollerblading together. We ate ice cream together, and I talked to him about everything. My dad is white. And even though he did not know exactly what I was going through because he never experienced it himself, he listened, he cared, and he stood up for me.
Why is it so hard for people to do this? Why are we having such a hard time believing what POC (people of color) are saying? I understand that it’s hard because you haven’t been through it, but take the time to listen. And care. And love someone for who they are and their experiences. If it hasn’t happened to you, it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening to others.
Recently I’ve had extended family members delete and block me on social media for standing up and speaking out. One of my closest cousins told me that racism isn’t an issue, it doesn’t exist and that by ‘ranting’ about it, I’m keeping it alive.
I’m sorry, but that is not true. Racism does exist, and if we don’t talk about it, it’s never going to get better. Just because it’s not happening to YOU doesn’t mean it’s not happening! Racism is a learned behavior. People are not born racist. Children don’t treat others differently until they are taught to do so.
We HAVE to do better. So please, before you keep going on and on, take a look at yourself. Think about the biases you may still be holding onto. Think about the biases you grew up with. We all have them. It’s never too late to change. And it’s our job, especially as parents, to recognize those things and be better, for the sake of our children and our future.
Recently a quote from a friend of mine really spoke to me.
“If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how tired some people are of experiencing it…”
And that…is the truth.