I was asked why I decided to write about whiteness and uncomfortable conversations. And I had a few reasons.
Seeing my white classmates shut down when someone speaks on their experience as a person of color (POC) that challenges a white person’s perception of such experience is a bewildering thing to see. Yet, I often see it that a white person could have more knowledge and experience over a POC’s experience of living as a person of color. Talking about race used to feel like I was doing something wrong, and it wasn’t until I left my bubble and went to college that I realized, “damn, I am an idiot.”
I might seem like a white savior or even like someone turning their back on fellow white people, but that’s not what I’m doing – at least I hope that’s not what’s happening. In my last piece, I got a few fun comments from other white people. One person was really upset about melatonin and people that have a lot of it. I hope they can find the sleep aid that they need. But I also got comments that immediately went on the defense. And to them, I say, no one is shaming you for your skin color or ancestors and I know how sad that must be to be criticized for your skin color constantly. No one said anything about your ancestors. You brought it up. We know that wasn’t you, yet you are, holding on to it like it’s a fun statement piece.
I’m a loud and outspoken person. Anyone who has ever even been in the same room as me would know that. When I see things, I call them out. I jump to people’s defense without even thinking about it. But I had to learn not to do that sometimes. That people can take care of the situation on their own. That speaking over the voices that are being suppressed or ignored isn’t okay, and I don’t need to jump in front and start yelling. I needed to learn to stand back and let people speak for themselves and listen.
A few years ago was talking to a friend of mine about a band that I used to listen to all the time when I was younger, a South African band called Die Antwoord. I showed her one of their music videos because it was so crazy, and she turned to me and said, “they’re doing blackface.” I was mortified that I never even realized. Something as obvious as blackface, yet I didn’t even notice. I looked them up after she pointed them out, and there was article after article about how problematic they are. I used to listen to and watch their music videos, and I never noticed the blatant racism.
Many white people are open to difference and exploring different ideas but afraid of being ostracized for being white. Tapping into the deep fear many white people have not just dissing whiteness but criticizing while inhabiting. But even the whites that want to do better aren’t. I’ve seen countless comments asking, “Can I wear this? Is it okay if I do this? Is it bad to buy from a black-owned store?” on a video of someone doing a TikTok dance. While I don’t want what I’m saying to shame you or deter you from learning, there are so many better ways of getting your questions answered in the correct space.
As a white person, the moment you enter a conversation between people your group generally dominates, you ask for accommodation. Social media allows us to listen and learn without butting in. Not every conversation is for me or about my whiteness. But those conversations are so important to listen to and understand, to see other people’s experiences and perspectives on something that I am not a part of.