Race has been a highlight in the news a lot recently. It is Black History Month this month, and I’ve been thinking about race and culture and privilege lately.
I am “white” and therefore was born with some amount of privilege. I grew up in Southern California, specifically in the diverse city of Pasadena. I was a minority in my schools oddly enough. Race was something I knew about, obviously, but to me race was just a group of friends that looked different than each other. I wasn’t taught to see different ethnic backgrounds as any reason to not be friends with someone, and though I knew racism existed (even racism against White people, though that isn’t generally talked about) but diversity was my normal. In fact, I felt most out of place when I lived in Minnesota and almost everyone I saw there was White. Growing up where there were Japanese, Pacific Islander, Black, Indian, Hispanic, Native American, Korean, Armenian, Chinese, and Mixed Race people; moving to a place where 90% of the people around me were White was SO strange to me.
Growing up with such diversity – such beauty around me, its disheartening to see continual brokeness in inter-racial interactions. As a White person, I have the privilege of freedom from fear of what violent or dehumanizing acts against me solely based on how I look. As a White person, I have privilage…. though I am also stereotyped. Once I was driving some students home and they were talking about something related to poverty that they told me “you won’t understand because you’re White”…. after sharing with them that I didn’t make a lot of money doing what I did and that my family was homeless for about a year when I was a child, they realized I wasn’t so different and they started sharing things with me more often.
Race holds stereotypes, and while there is a reason that stereotypes form, they don’t blanket a race….they don’t blanket people. Making racial statements or stereotypes – and deciding what someone is like because of how they look – causes pain, and divide, and loss in knowing an awesome person. #blacklivesmatter is a great movement and I fully support it. We need to take that concept and expand. Lives matter. All lives matter. Humans matter.
For me, this goes beyond race. Looking at races is limiting. Looking at gender is limiting (I will save my thoughts about feminism for a later time, but will say that it is a concept that is misunderstood and put down). Looking at income is limiting. Looking at faith is limiting. Looking at social class is limiting. Looking at level of education is limiting. There are big issues in the world – there are a lot of things that we need to fight for change over.
The brokeness of the world should be upsetting, it should move us to action. I no longer accept sitting by and deciding I can’t create change. Change is not something I can do alone, but I can cause ripples and collectively we can cause waves. Action is going to look different for everyone, but sitting by is a statement that corruption is okay. Everyone has a past, everyone has a story, everyone matters. The change starts with me, and with you. Make the choice to treat people as people. Make the choice to see past all circumstances and see the person and the person’s needs.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Ghandi
Let’s shake it!