Uncomfortable Conversations

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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.

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2 Comments

  1. Michael Sagehorn Michael Sagehorn Saturday, September 11, 2021

    Again, another effort to define multiple ethnicities by skin tone and melatonin. Irish, Italian, Mexican, Californos , Lithuanian, Scotch-Irish, French, and Scandinavian heritage descendants all have narratives of hardship and discrimination. Historically to lump all of these ethnicities and cultures into one category- “white”, is from a scholarly perspective, wrong and inaccurate. As a graduate of HSU (1983) I expect something better from students attending a university with top history and political scholars teaching in their subjects.

  2. Mr. Anonymous Mr. Anonymous Sunday, September 12, 2021

    Your going around in circles and not saying anything at all. “please have conversations about race”, “It is not the job of POC to educate whites or to talk about race.”, ” It’s not an excuse to not have a conversation about race.” Talk to POC, don’t talk to POC, have a conversation, don’t have a conversation,… what are you saying. Sorry, but I’m not sorry that I’m a European American, I won’t feel ashamed of it, I had no choice of the pigment of my skin, or the DNA in me and where my forefathers came from. I didn’t participate in any genocides, or ethnic cleansings. I’ve been poor my entire life, I’ve been harassed by cops and store owners, gone to bad schools with bad teachers that don’t care,.. and I’ve never gotten hooked up just for being “white”.
    Yes society is messed up in many ways, and yes the government/ financial system preys on the weak and poor and POC. But when 1% of the population controls 99% of the wealth and power, than most of us are in the same boat. We should not divide ourselves, but unite ourselves to fight for all. Read “A people’s history of the US” by Howard Zinn, and see how we’ve been divided/ pitted against each other for political/ governmental/ financial gain since the dawn of America.
    Sure I grew up in a school, church, and community with lots of POC and many of them much richer then my family. So I didn’t think racism still existed until later on in my childhood/ early adulthood. But that doesn’t make me part of the problem or racist. Yes things certainly need to change, but to group all “white people” together as the cause of centuries of racism isn’t helping any of us. We each have different schemas based on differing circumstances of upbringing, experiences, and education; so lets not deny that and lump different groups together based solely on color of skin. Just be open and understanding of different peoples plights. Different peoples cultures, foods, music, arts, religions are all beautiful in their own rights, creating this diverse thing we call America. Let’s celebrate our differences, not condemn them.

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