White people are scared to talk about whiteness. Trying to have conversations with my family members about race is like pulling teeth. If confronted, they either get mad or do/say something racist and refuse to acknowledge what they just did. I am white and I used to say things like “I don’t see race I see people,” which, looking back, is a load of bullshit because I didn’t know how to talk about my whiteness and race.
It’s incredibly invalidating to people’s experiences and lives to say “I don’t see race.” Saying that means you don’t see their culture, you don’t see the pattern of violence People of Color (POC) are confronted with every day, and you’re not seeing the racial injustice that happens every day.
I grew up not having to acknowledge or even know that the white experience is completely different and unequal to those that aren’t white. When I started forming my own opinions and seeing things without input from my family and community, I realized that my version of feminism was really white feminism. It didn’t specifically include nonwhite people. Sure I could see the injustice against women, but I was practically blind to racial injustice.
Having racial anxiety isn’t the same for POC and whites. POC experiencing racial anxiety is from discrimination hostility and hate crimes, while for white people it is from the possibility of being seen as racist. It’s not an excuse to not have a conversation about race. If you say something racist, listen to the people telling you so. Own up to it. Don’t use your own ignorance as a weapon powered by centuries of institutional power.
Being uncomfortable isn’t an excuse either, it’s something white people need to face. When white people say ”Ugh, I hate white people,” it’s them trying to separate their experiences from other white people’s experiences like they are two separate things. However, they are the same. Those saying “I hate white people,” while being white are almost more damaging, because they are using their white privilege to deny it.
Not talking about race is screaming your answer of where you stand and what you choose is to be ignorant. Silence is an answer and it’s not a good one. Fellow white people, please have conversations about race. Feel uncomfortable, be criticized, and stop saying you’re sorry. That doesn’t move the conversation past your own feelings and misplaced guilt, it just stops the conversation from having an actual meaning that matters.
It is not the job of POC to educate whites or to talk about race. White people – myself included – need to take initiative to do better, to admit fault where there is a fault, to start a conversation about race, and to be a vocal ally through your actions without speaking over the people we claim to support.