Dear White Friends: Racism is Slightly More Complex Than What You Learned About in Primary School

Dear White Friends: Racism is Slightly More Complex Than What You Learned About in Primary School

By Liz Brazile

After several years of banging my head against the wall upon seeing the old American proverbs of “it (racism) goes both ways” and “slavery ended 300 years ago” in social media comment sections, I think it’s time we address an uncomfortable truth: the watered down, Cliff Notes unit on racial inequality you were taught in elementary school was a lie. And now it is your responsibility to relinquish your outdated understanding of black and white race relations and investigate deeper.

What do Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., segregation, and slavery all have in common? They’re all talking points in social studies classes when the unit on racialized historical conflicts rolls around—and that’s if it ever does. We learn that the most important faces of the Civil Rights Movement were an exhausted seamstress who refused to give up her bus seat and a reverend who just wanted little black kids and little white kids to be friends. We learn that Slavery was merely unpaid labor black folks did for white folks and that segregation was a result of blacks and whites equally wanting to shut each other out of their spaces. We also learn that black people won a bunch of rights and lived happily ever after without any lasting generational trauma, and that the doing away with overtly racist policies meant people just suddenly did away with their racist ideologies. And last but not least, my favorite: that racism is as simple as not liking someone because of their skin color, and therefore any of us is capable of perpetuating it—never mind the economic oppression, political control, or any other systemic roadblocks to upward mobility that no group in America other than white people could possibly have the power to impose on an entire people.

Well I’m here to tell you that slavery only ended a few great grandma’s ago and my grandparents came up in the Jim Crow era—which was not about willful segregation, but rather white fear of miscegenation and black economic progress. And, the Civil Rights Movement was propelled by nameless, faceless black folks who didn’t always garner fame or white approval—alive or posthumously.

If you’ve made it this far without angrily clicking out of this article and deeming me that racist black chick who hates white people, you’re on the right track. My beloved white people, here’s what you have to understand: you have the (white) privilege of allowing your comprehension of race in America to end at what you learned about in school; black people don’t. What we don’t learn in school about racism could be, at best a serious social impairment and at worst, a wrongful death waiting to happen. By that, I mean we are forced to learn to adapt to an anti-black world, while maximizing opportunities and minimizing harm.

I learned as a young girl that I am not allowed the same range of emotions afforded to my white counterparts. God forbid I experience a bad day at school or work, lest I want to be labeled as “the girl with the attitude problem”. I also learned that no matter what level of rapport I’d thought I’d built with an authority figure, I wouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt when I needed it. When I was second grade, my “best friend’s” mom, who taught our computer class, kicked me out for a week because my computer stopped working and I must’ve “done something” to it—despite the fact that I’d been to her home multiple times and she and my mother had become quite cordial. I learned early on to monitor every move I make in public spaces so as to not arouse suspicions about my inherent suspiciousness. To this day, browsing while black makes me uneasy.

Some of you will say, “Well why not just ignore those people?” or, “Who cares what those ignorant people think?” But it’s deeper than that. I have to be on high alert about what people think about me because if I don’t defy what anti-black stereotypes would have them think about me, it could cost me greatly. The very act of me writing this essay is a risk.

So many of us have a hard time wrapping our heads around current race relations in America because we haven’t grasped the true history of race relations in America. As children, we have in our minds that the 1800’s and 1960’s were so long ago. And as adults, we don’t swap out our child-like perception of time for a more realistic one. The same ones saying “life is short” are the same ones who can’t comprehend that 60 years is not that long ago in the grand scheme of history.

Anytime an unarmed or legally armed black person dies at the hands of police, we hear a thousand reasons why it was justified and are told to simply “follow the law” if we wish to stay alive. Yet, when a young white man meets his end due to his failure to “follow the law”, he becomes an American martyr. To understand why this happens and the subsequent implications, one must first understand how disposable black life has been throughout American history.

We do not live in a post-racial society. We live in a post-socially-acceptable-to-be-openly-racist society—although that is changing under our current presidential administration. Until you’re willing to have an honest conversation with your black friends about their lived experiences and study the many examples of how systemic racism functions, you have nothing meaningful to contribute to the discussion on present-day racism in America.

Advertisements

378 Comments

  1. Excellent piece, thank you!

  2. As a middle age, white woman I enjoyed reading this essay. I am working on trying to better understand and as you said review what we were taught in history class versus what really happened. I’m trying to educate myself so i can figure out what are the right things to do. We can’t change history but we can work on changing the future. Please continue to speak out, we can’t just keep sweeping it under the rug. I look forward to reading your posts.

    1. Thanks for reading! Understanding history in all its ugly truth is absolutely critical if we want to know why things are how they are currently, and how we can successfully move forward.

  3. Liz – Bravo I have always been an advocate of talking race with my white friends. I never want to miss an opportunity to educate and be educated by what comes of such deep endeavors. Thank you!

  4. This was a great read – eloquent, real, and honest. I love when you say “We do not live in a post-racial society. We live in a post-socially-acceptable-to-be-openly-racist society” I think there’s a lot of truth to that, that’s much easier to ignore than try and engage with.

  5. I am sure that you will call me a racist, because I do not fully agree with your perspective. Is it my White privilege to disagree? All of us are not the same. My grandfather came from Canada, my father was born in the USA and so was I. We never owned slaves, black or otherwise. My father fought in WWII and I fought in Vietnam against Communist with their social ideology and culture. It
    is interesting that we promote being innocent until proven guilty. White people do not get that from Blacks much too often.

    “Anytime an unarmed or legally armed black person dies at the hands of police, we hear a thousand reasons why it was justified and are told to simply “follow the law” if we wish to stay alive. Yet, when a young white man meets his end due to his failure to “follow the law”, he becomes an American martyr.”
    I quoted you and I do not accept this narrow view of yours Yes, we should follow the law and if you do not you are a criminal, black or white makes no difference. It may be a shock to you, but all whites and all blacks are not innocent. Can you tell me how many police were killed last year or on average per year? How does that affect their families currently? Do you know how many white folk lost a limb or their life in the Civil War that is regarded as ending slavery?

    A parting idea, that many religious people hold dear. Forgiveness and love is needed to be given by all. If you believe in God or not is another discussion, what is important for us is to believe in forgiveness and love are things of beauty and will reduce greatly the hate being taught to children.

    1. I’m sorry you wasted so much of your time in an attempt to unravel this narrative. Re-read my essay, brush up on the well-documented history of racial oppression in the U.S., think critically about how it affects present-day society, and have a conversation with a few black folks about their real life experiences. The only point you’ve proven here is that fragility is a given anytime an honest conversation on race relations comes about. Have a great day and always remember to take initiative to inform yourself on the topics you wish to debate about.

      1. I do agree with you on many counts. Yes, racism is a problem and we all need to move forward to deal with it, but the basic premise of an article entitled “Dear white friends” is no more racially-forward-thinking than if I title an article “Dear black friends”.

        What’s more I haven’t seen any white criminals martyred in the news media. I have seen video showing the criminal behavior of several black men who were later gunned down by police. I have also seen black men and women killed for no reason. What I don’t see is anything about the young, mentally-challenged white man who was kidnapped and tortured (by three black adults) for over 36 hours in Texas getting more than a five-second news blip.

        And yet, every black person who gets shot by police is instantly the hot topic of the news cycle for a week or more; especially when the rioting starts. They are also the next ‘lottery’ winner in their upcoming lawsuit.

        Dismissing a genuine concern over forgiveness and mutual discussion as “white fragility” doesn’t prove your point or do anything except reveal the same “reverse racism” I see all too often in my life.

        Guess what else, everyone has to consider how they act in public spaces. Everyone is treated differently depending on the current circumstances of their position. As a woman I’m thought to be an airhead if I discuss anything mechanical or construction related even though I am a handyman (plumbing, electrical, and roofing to name a few).

        If I am out walking alone, I have to consider how I’ll be viewed and if I’m safe. I’ve been catcalled, threatened with physical violence, and harassed because I’m female and I happen to be in the vicinity of a bully. I’ve also been accused of being a thief for walking into a department store in shorts and a t-shirt.

        As the descendant of both Irish and German heritage, many of my ancestors were treated worse than their black counterparts. Many of my German ancestors ended up in concentration camps here in the United States during WWI & II because they were German immigrants. When they were finally released it was with the clothes on their backs and no reparations were ever made for the confiscated homes, land, and personal property.

        You’ve never heard about that in your history books any more than you hear about the Japanese-Americans who were treated the same and for the same reason.

        I applaud any effort made to open a dialogue about issues that affect us as human beings. But to dismiss anything you disagree with as “white fragility” when you don’t even know if the person you’re talking to is WHITE tells me you’re not really interested in actual equality. You are interested in the same “we’re all equal but I’m more equal” that every racist I’ve ever met spouts.

        And yes, I’m referring to black racists and white racists alike. Not to mention all the brown, yellow, red, blue, green, and orange racists you’re leaving out in your black-and-white article… or is it black vs. white?

      2. Did it feel good to get that off your chest? I sure hope so.

      3. My apologies if I exposed something you’d rather keep hidden. I can’t imagine it is comfortable knowing you are arguing only half the issue.

      4. You didn’t expose anything but your fragile perception of conversations about race. Have a fabulous day and debate systemic racism, not me!

      5. Well I too have a lot to say on this topic, but by this response I can see it would be a waste of my time.

      6. No “might” to it. Although I did read it all and think you are very well spoken. Just wrong on a few things. But I get same response from every black person I try to have a conversation on this. Good luck.

      7. While I will do my best to accept this rather backhanded compliment, I’d like to leave you with one piece of advice: if a group of people (individually) keep telling you the same thing, perhaps that’s your cue to just listen rather than going the distance to refute their life experiences.

      8. I do find it funny how your have flippant remarks to people who have something critical to say.

        My question is, when does personal history trump collective history? Ever? I know for certain the black people I knew in Kansas where I am from had a different experience than Black people from the South. I know my own interactions lately with black people from Dallas vs. Maryland have been different. My own personal experience with being white and engaging with different races, be they Black, Asian, Hispanic, or otherwise, is about being conscientious. Because I feel like I have to be careful of feelings, feelings I have no intention on hurting. I don’t want to oppress people as I sit on the train just by virtue of MY skin color. This to me is hopeless and demeaning to any race.

        Most of the people I know that are Black or Asian, or any other minority, have better jobs than I do. They have a better education, and have generally had a better life. Was it easy for them? I don’t know. Probably some good, some bad. Why isn’t that the real history of race in this country?

        When does it get turned around? I am at risk of being called a racist and a white supremacist by asking these questions. If my employer or my future employer, who I hope will be an inner city school district where I will hopefully get to teach inner city public school kids, most of whom will be black, saw this post, just by virtue of questioning your position, I could get looked over for the job. We are all at risk these days.

        If we are going to have a real conversation about this, a conversation that eventually leads to solutions, it would be nice to have some openness towards the positons and try and answer the questions.

        History is flawed as Ticklethedragon pointed out. We never hear about the German side of WWII. Likewise we don’t read enough about the Black American rise from slavery to true equality, which is still in the works.

        But I would like to think that the efforts I have made and make every day in my mixed race world, and the efforts of many people I know and love are not unnoticed or without affect.

      9. Thanks for stopping by. You’ve stated what you find funny, now allow me to do the same: people will come into a space where members of a marginalized collective have invited them to have a dialogue to understand our perspectives, yet gaslight them about their experiences and knowledge under the guise of having a “dissenting opinion”. And then have the nerve to wonder why there is a lack of interest in continuing the conversation. White people have always dictated what history is recorded, preserved, and disseminated into the mainstream, with little input from anyone who isn’t.

        I am not a spokesperson for all black people and I never intended to portray myself as such. No doubt we don’t all have the same experiences because we are not a monolith. When I talk about racism, I’m mainly speaking to large-scale, systemic occurrences–not just interpersonal one-offs. You sitting on the train is not oppressive. But you being blinded by your privilege and characterizing my responses to attempts to derail this conversation as an inability to accept criticism, is.

        How would you like to have a man, who has never walked a mile in your shoes and doesn’t understand the full scope of womanhood, bombard you with “dissenting opinions” on what it’s like to be on the receiving end of sexism? And then go on a tirade about how this one time he wasn’t allowed to participate in an activity because he was a man? Once again, oppression has many intersections and I never once said only black people experience it. In fact, I’ve laid out many ways in which people can experience oppression in these comments several times. And while you may feel that you have friends of color who are doing better than you, it’s not on the basis of you being white and them being POC.

      10. I initially left this comment for another reader but I would like to paste it into our thread as well:

        “Thank you for reading! You’ve made a very telling observation here: “people of color often have a much better understanding of white people than white people do of people of color.”

        I wish more people had this level of insight. So many white people want to be an authority on another group’s culture and experiences without having spent much time in non-white spaces. On the flip side, many POC have had years worth of experience navigating through white spaces and making these one-sided observations.

        In order for POC to successfully move through predominantly white institutions such as our work places and educational programs, we must become so-called “experts” on white people. I code switch everyday so as to not be perceived as ghetto, incompetent, or attitudinal, as I mentioned in the essay. Anytime I’ve gone into a job interview since I’ve had natural hair, I’ve wondered whether or not my hair would be seen as “unprofessional” and prevent me from being hired.

        I think many white people are simply ignorant of the amount of emotional labor POC do to appease them and their standards on a daily basis, just to get by. That right there is why I refuse to sugar coat these messages or coddle anyone’s fragility about their complicity in racism.”

      11. I understand and empathize with what you are saying about systemic racism and the hurdles and hoop jumped through to avoid loss of opportunity.

        My question is how do we help? As white people, how do we help? How do we help to correct the problem on the systemic level?

      12. I am going to copy and paste my response to another reader who had this same question:

        “Unfortunately there is no one formulaic approach for white allies to take to improve the state of America for black people. However, understanding where your privilege lies and then making a sincere effort to influence those factors in favor of a more equal playing field is a start.

        Write your local lawmakers when you see racist policies being upheld. Get involved with POC interest groups and put them onto the connections and resources you have available to you. Most importantly, listen to the expressed concerns and needs of the people you wish to help. Allyship doesn’t have to be complicated. An action as simple as using your position of credibility as a white man to write a POC an outstanding letter of recommendation to secure a good job goes a long way. Taking the time to talk about racial bias with your friends in law enforcement so that maybe they’ll think twice before assuming the worst about a black person they encounter goes a long way. I hope this helps.”

      13. Try reading waking up white. It was very enlightening to me. We need to have these tough conversations to figure out how to move forward.

      14. ticklethedragon – Hi, I’m also a white female, and when I learned of Irish slaves I dug into the topic to learn more. It was brutal. As I understand it, it was indentured servitude and individuals were forced to perform impossible types/amounts of labor for 7 years, I think. It was so bad that many didn’t survive. They were supposed to labor to do their time for a crime or pay off their debt, and so many died in the process. Definitely a very dark part of human history.

        It seems that indentured servitude, as horrific as it was, was still very different from the chattel slavery of black people in the US. It lasted for many generations, as babies were literally born slaves. Families were divided and dispursed throughout the country to different slaveowners, never to see each other again. Materials were published and distributed to slaveowners on how to “manage” their slaves, and the laws of the land supported these practices. Beatings were allowed, and killings too. Buckbreaking was also a common practice, as was forced incest (the breed the ‘perfect slave’). Surviving as a slave made no difference to the next generation because they would just be slaves too. There was no end in sight. If you were black you were a slave, and if You were white you could get away with absolutely anything toward a black person because our laws upheld whiteness. With all these generations affecting black people, it affected white people too. Our sense of supremacy was legitimized even in our laws.

        Even after emancipation and then the Jim Crow era, while Irish descendants were considered “white” and could inherit property from their ancestors, or buy it themselves if they had the money, this wasn’t the case for black people in our country. In some states there are still property deeds that literally state that a black person cannot buy or inherit the land. This is changing, but really, I mean look how many white families have been able to pass down even a little bit of something to their kids for the last 100 years. We don’t think about it much, but this isn’t a freedom most states allowed for black people until the late 1960s. The poverty of the Irish slaves was astounding, but it wasn’t dicated by law to last for generation after generation. I think it’s worth noting that many black people today aren’t crying out just over the suffering of their ancestors but are speaking up and saying stuff is still going on…some stuff that perhaps we weren’t aware of. Sometimes I hear another white person saying something like how poor black people choose to be poor, but in many, many ways I think they are still catching up economically in ways we never knew about. There are those black families who have surpassed their white counterparts but they have surely worked a lot harder to get there. I think we can learn a lot here and from other black writers even though sometimes it is uncomfortable. As women we definitely have to deal with misogyny, no doubt. But I do see that the issue of race is its own huge issue.

      15. First, just as a point of clarification, I’m not white. However, I think the assumption of my race because of my comments demonstrates my original point quite nicely.
        Second, I wasn’t discussing the practice of indentured servitude from the 1600 and 1700’s. I was specifically referring to the “black Irish” immigrants (late 1800-1900’s) who were given that label for their willingness to take on jobs normally allotted to black citizens. Often, here in the United States, they were viewed as more undesirable than their black counterparts due to their employment. This mistreatment came from blacks as well as whites. That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it a race issue (or a “reverse race” issue depending on which side of the political correctness line you’re standing on).
        I also referred to the American concentration camps where German and Japanese citizens were stripped of all their rights, properties, and in many cases their lives because we were fighting world wars. No one ever mentions them or the complete lack of our government to truly acknowledge these atrocities perpetrated against our citizens, including in those months of discussing race and the Civil Rights Movement.
        Third, I wrote what I wrote because of the direct, belittling, personal assault on a fellow commentator (whose race is also unknown) because the commentator was pushing for a place of forgiveness and understanding rather than a narrowly defined, black vs. white version of education and history. It was particularly offensive because the blog writer was actually blaming all white people for the sins of those few who participated in slavery while completely ignoring everyone who fought – and continues to fight – against racial divisions.
        Also, I didn’t know if you are aware, slaves were originally sold from Africa by other black people for the alcohol produced in the American colonies. The slaves were taken to the Caribbean to work the sugar farms, sugar went up the coast to become alcohol, which went to Africa in trade for slaves abducted and sold by Africans. Later the cotton plantations adopted the methodology of the Spanish (not white) sugar plantation owners who originally utilized slave labor.
        Lastly, the original author of this piece had many good points. However, no few of the facts were skewed in a manner I’ve seen far too often of late. This notion that all white people are to blame for the oppression and racial persecution of minorities – because they are the only ones capable of doing it – doesn’t actually hold water if you really look at how our society is organized.
        We are a capitalist society. It means that unless you are a member of the upper one-percent, you have no say in anything that happens in politics or law. It’s as true now as it was in the 1800’s. That position of power is determined by money, not the color of your skin.
        Additionally, I have never agreed with the argument “my broken arm invalidates the pain of your stubbed toe.”
        In closing, I have appended the following comments which were never actually posted so you can see what my real, continuing discussions were about:
        If you wish to go point-by-point then here it is:
        1. Race and class, in the context of a capitalist society (which was my point), are two-sides of the same oppression coin.
        2. You state this was an essay – an expression of your opinion and your experiences as only a black person and not a discussion of all racial issues – however you state you want to talk about “the true history of race relations in America”. Then don’t cherry-pick the black and white stuff.
        Also, don’t specifically demand action if you don’t want dissent:
        “…now it is your responsibility to relinquish your outdated understanding of black and white race relations and investigate deeper…”
        A call for change requires a discussion, not a steam-roll to your way of thinking.
        3. “This is my blog and I will express my thoughts how I see fit”, however you’ve absconded with the title “Reclaiming My Time” from the original speaker – Rep. Maxine Waters – not to mention the social media following it has garnered.
        4. You claim to have had “friendly and productive” interactions with commentators and you’re right… so long as they agreed with you. Anyone who attempted to discuss or showed any sign of dissent were met with the same defensive brush off I received.
        “ask you not to attempt any tone-policing here”
        “I am under no obligation to coddle anyone who steps into my arena with the intent to do any of the actions mentioned above. Lastly, I would like to strongly discourage you from any future attempts to moderate a POC’s manner of addressing privileged deflections.”
        All of this is in thorough keeping with the original tone of your article as well as your unwillingness to address my partner’s comments made from a historian and professor’s perspective which you slid away from by calling them “total BS” without bothering to post them in the first place.
        Lastly are these points:
        1. “systemic roadblocks to upward mobility that no group in America other than white people could possibly have the power to impose on an entire people” – Actually, the systemic roadblocks in our system are perpetuated by the upper crust of the upper, upper one-percent and we are engaged in a capitalist society whose only method for maintaining this path is by keeping everyone else too busy fighting each other to actually change anything.
        2. Your battering of history, which you claim is racist, isn’t improved by using your own racial blinders:
        “the Civil Rights Movement was propelled by nameless, faceless black folks” – what about all the non-blacks?
        “beloved white people…you have the (white) privilege of allowing your comprehension of race in America to end at what you learned about in school” – actually when race came up in school it was open-season on every white kid present and if you dared to interrupt bullying you were labeled “white sympathizer” and the abuse was doubled-down
        “I am not allowed the same range of emotions afforded to my white counterparts” – that’s a woman issue more than a race issue
        “wouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt” – welcome to all female life, poor life, or “other” life in the United States
        Last is this quote:
        “Until you’re willing to have an honest conversation with your black friends about their lived experiences and study the many examples of how systemic racism functions, you have nothing meaningful to contribute to the discussion about race in America.”
        The crowning achievement and the reason you are greeted with those who are trying to point out the cliff-edge of bigotry you’re skirting in this article. Racism isn’t black and white. It isn’t a “whites-only” problem. And it isn’t going away just because you personally attack (or unilaterally delete) anyone who disagrees.
        FYI this is what you wouldn’t originally post, and later labeled “BS”:
        First, “reverse racism” is real. Research the real story behind the “black Irish” and exactly how they were mistreated and put down by black Americans.
        Second, from my partner who is both a historian and a professor, they teach – at great length – Dredd Scott v. Sandford; Brown v. Board of Education; Jim Crow; 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the women’s movement stepping aside so we could have the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments; Martin Luther King Jr.; W.E.B. Du Bois; and that slavery began in Africa with black tribes selling each other to white people for weapons so they could continue to fight and enslave other tribes. Just to name a few of the topics.
        So, yes, I would love to discuss – and end – systemic racism. But it has to start with an open dialogue and not a dismissal of any dissenting opinion.
        If you are so interested in telling others to be informed on their topics of debate, then I encourage you to continue your own education first.

      16. First of all, I never once blamed all white people for anything. I’ll need a direct citation for that (hint–it doesn’t exist). That is simply your own fragile interpretation of what I have been saying regarding racial privilege. Secondly, I have stated time and time again that people can experience hardships on the basis of many intersections and that I never said black people are the only ones who do. However, you equating the relations between the black Irish and black Africans in America to how black people have been treated by whites is asinine. When did black people have any kind of social, political, or economic power to disenfranchise the black Irish? The black Irish were disenfranchised by OTHER WHITE PEOPLE. You know what black people were up to during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s? Trying to repair generations worth of damage inflicted by white people. They were busy trying to build educational institutions, vote without being killed, survive economically, and speak the truth about racism without being hunted down and lynched.

        And here we go again with that tired narrative about how the black people sold other black people as slaves. Stop revising history. Members of African tribes were coerced with guns and bribed with goods to hand over their enemies to European slave traders. I guess that somehow erases or negates how those slaves were treated by WHITE people on the journey to the US and the hundreds of years of torment they experienced once here? There are a lot of systems of oppression that I didn’t address here because this piece was specifically focused on how teaching BLACK history is approached in the education system. That is clearly stated in my thesis. So stop trying to shift the narrative to “all lives matter”. Do you think I’m dense or something and don’t know about the Holocaust, internment camps, the genocide of Native Americans, or any other historical occurrence of racial oppression or don’t feel that people need to learn about them? Those things simply weren’t the focus of my very short essay.

        Again for the people in the back, you don’t get to dictate what I feel my life experience has been. I said what I said and if I said I felt something happened to me on the basis of being black and a woman then that’s what the hell I meant. Let’s be serious–black women are routinely characterized, stereotyped, and treated in ways that other women aren’t by mainstream society. We are seen as loud, obnoxious, welfare queens, uneducated, mammies, angry, and the least attractive because of that blackness COUPLED with our womanhood.

        I spoke of a specific example in which I was treated poorly by another (white) woman who was supposed to be a family friend. And it was because I was a black child at a predominantly white Catholic school. My mother remembers seeing black kids lined up on benches to see the principal at a higher rate than other students, despite making up a very small percentage of the student body. So either there was some profiling going on or black children are inherently behaved worse than other children. You tell me?

        So with that, keep your derailments about MY life experiences to yourself because they’re not valid.

      17. Which points exactly were proven? I need receipts. Show me, don’t just tell me. I need to know in which sentence/paragraph did I blame the entire white race for something.

        Most of your argument has been that I cherry-picked which history I included in this piece. We can agree there. You know why? Because this piece was SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN RACE RELATIONS BETWEEN BLACKS AND WHITES. So when I said “in order to understand the true history of race relations” I figured people would be able to discern the fact that I’m specifically talking about black and white race relations because that’s what I CLEARLY STATED in my thesis. You have done the absolute most with reiterating to me how I left things out about other ethnicities’ race relations here. Like I didn’t already know that this little short essay that I crafted in 30 minutes wasn’t the whole picture of all race relations.

        Once again, racism and classism are interconnected but they are not the same thing. If they were, there wouldn’t be such a disproportionate rate of generational poverty in black America. You talk about the one percent but how many POC or black people are in that tier vs. how many white people? For all the labor black folks have done in this country, we’re awfully economically repressed as a collective. According to data published in 2014 by the US Census Bureau, 27 percent of blacks live below the poverty line in America compared to 11 percent of whites. I wonder why? I mean, wouldn’t you think that the majority (white people) who make up 62 percent of the population should be reflected as having the higher poverty rate rather than 13 percent of the population? Perhaps it’s the racist practices and policies of the past and present like redlining, gerrymandering, housing discrimination, and educational resource disparities in black neighborhoods you should be debating instead of me.

      18. I think you really need to listen to what people are saying, Liz. There’s nothing wrong with having an open mind or a healthy argument. You don’t even want to look into what they are saying, you’re just brushing them off. This is the dialogue you wanted, I don’t think it gets any better than this.

      19. The dialogue I requested was for white people to listen to what POC are saying about how they experience life. I never intended to debate well-documented historical facts or have people gaslight me about whether or not that history and my experiences are real. That’s where I think the misunderstanding is.

        Furthermore, I have had plenty of healthy conversations with commenters who come here to genuinely discuss the issues I bring up in this piece. I think a lot of people really underestimate the emotional labor it takes to talk about this stuff so forgive me for not being excited to debate everyone who comes here to tell me I’m wrong. Not every call for dialogue is a call for a debate or argument. Sometimes it’s a call for people to just listen.

      20. There’s nothing psychologically or emotionally “healthy” about the derailing and re-centering people have been doing in my comment section.

      21. Actually I had seen someone’s comment that said they were white and mistakenly thought that was part of your comment. I am new to wordpress and using my phone and sometimes going back and forth in the comments section is a bit jinky as I get used to it. I apologize for that mistake. I can appreciate a variety of perspectives and I do like to learn new things. That said, what I most value in dialogue is connection, not arguing or oneupping someone. You seem to be knowledgeable about the history of slavery, and to see the economic ramifications of it. What I must have done poorly in my earlier comment was to point out the remaining effects of US slavery on black Americans in our present economy and social climate, and how that differs from some of the other examples of slavery that you mentioned. Do you see the lasting ramifications in those other examples that exist today for black people in the US? For example, how are Irish Americans doing today? Are they experiencing the same types of prejudice as black people in our country? Are they over represented in prison populations? Are they routinely tracked by police based on their Irish ancestry? Are they redlined out of neighborhoods?

        It seems that the blogger here is writing about her experience as a black woman, about her own experience from her own perspective. It would seem strange (to me) to disagree with someone’s own perspective. As a woman I experience that from time to time and it is frustrating. If someone said I was cherry-picking by stating my own perspective I might not entertain the conversation further because, yeah, my own perspective is the only one I have. Like when Black Likes Matter began, people started saying “where is Native American Lives Matter?” Well, I don’t know, ask the Native Americans about that because this is specifically about justice for black people.

        I do get the message about the one-percenters. I think that is a broader view of how this all works (or rather doesn’t work). I guess the one-percenters are still doing just fine as long as we continue to invalidate one another’s experiences and pick on how each other expresses ourselves. It seems that all we can really do to connect in all this is to share our different perspectives and hope for each other to accept that another’s experience is what they say it is.

      22. I think the point is that she is attempting to explain her experience as a black women and the experience of other African Americans which she is entitled to do as you are entitled to talk about your experiences. Would you go to an charity event for Aids holding a sign that says “Cancer kills, too.” That is the takeaway I got anyways.

        I think as whites, we get defensive which only makes things worse because we feel blamed for problems we didn’t create BUT WITH THAT SAID, we do and still benefit from a system that oppressed and still oppresses African Americans , whether we wanted to be apart if that system or not. And we should at least have the gumption to admit that. I hope that makes sense. Thank you.

    2. Don’t ever stop dissenting when you hear a one-sided argument. I agree we need to move forward together, hand-in-hand, toward a better place rather than spending all our time pointing fingers and laying blame.

      1. Pointing out facts is not laying blame. The fact that you take me talking about history as such is what is meant by the term “white fragility”. And “moving forward” is undoing systems that affect the present day, not holding hands. Holding hands does nothing to undo generational poverty brought about by people being denied access to financial freedom, or health disparities and chronic diseases that result from environmental racism. These are all well-documented facts that you could learn about if you cared to take the time to do so. Btw, “reverse racism” isn’t real. Until black people subject white folks to hundreds of years of enslavement, bodily torture, economic disenfranchisement, and racially discriminatory political policies, save it.

      2. While I won’t entertain your last comment because I’m calling utter BS, I’ll address one last thing in the name of clarification for all readers: the part where I mentioned a white man breaking the law and becoming a “martyr” was a direct reference to Otto Warmbier breaking the law in North Korea. Did you notice how the “he should’ve just followed the law and he’d still be alive” folks were nowhere to be found in this instance? Yeah, I did too.

    3. mericans which she is entitled to do as you entitled to talk about your experiences. Would you go to an charity event for Aids holding a sign that says “Cancer kills, too.” That is the takeaway I got anyways. I think as whites, we get defensivs because we feel blamed for problems we didn’t create BUT WITH THAT SAID, we do and have benefited from a system that oppressed African Americans , whether we wanted to or not. And we should at least have the gumption to admit that.

      1. My argument was not with the points made here, but with the dismissive response to a dissenting opinion. Particularly since it is the same disregard always handed out to those who goes against anyone debating a racial issue.

        The race issue isn’t the only issue. In fact, if you look back at history, the race issue is no different than the class issue. We are all simply participating in the capitalist system that only survives so long as we continue to divide ourselves.

        Further, if you are going to bring up those who are forgotten in history, you cannot cherry-pick only those who support your stance and disregard others. (I take special offense to the implication that only black activists were forgotten in the Civil Rights demonstrations when whites, hispanics, asians, and many others were part of those demanding change.)

        You also cannot have a discussion about race if you aren’t going to talk about all of racism including that practiced by black Americans.

        When the author utilized a patronizing, ill-informed, and flat out rude reply to one person who disagreed on a valid basis (that of not ever having participated in the racist history of our country), that is not a discussion it’s a soap box.

        My dissent doesn’t mean I’m defensive. My skin color – which isn’t white, by the way – doesn’t make me a racist.

        Wanting to have an open discussion about all of racism so we can root out hatred and bring our people together for real, lasting change shouldn’t be met with scorn and derision. It also shouldn’t be met with personal attacks or an unwillingness to participate in the discussion someone else started.

        If you walk into my living room and demand I get up and do jumping jacks then you better be ready to talk about it rather than storm off in a huff after calling me a lazy couch-potato.

      2. I’m just going to say these things and then I’m done here. 1) Poor whites are perfectly capable of upholding white supremacy so equating class and race is a total fallacy. 2) I am black and therefore my perspective was tailored to that fact. This was a short essay, not a dissertation on how every minority group in the U.S. has been affected by racism. 3) This is my blog and I will express my thoughts how I see fit, hence the title “Reclaiming My Time”. 4) You may have noticed I’ve had several friendly and productive interactions with other commenters. Perhaps your approach is what got you the response you received.

  6. Excellent post Liz.

    I am from the UK, and I am afraid for us it is even worse. We hardly learn about slavery, colonialism or the civil rights movement at all at school. When we *did* learn about slavery, it was seen as an American thing, even though owning slaves is a massive (and hideous) part of our history too.

    I am doing my best to check my privilege and I am attempting to be an ally to all my friends. But I do really appreciate this kind of post that spells out what you have to go through on a daily basis. You shouldn’t have to educate white people about this kind of thing, but I appreciate that you are trying.

    Like one of the comments above, I like the part where you said: “We do not live in a post-racial society. We live in a post-socially-acceptable-to-be-openly-racist society.” The thing is, with the events of the last few weeks (and all the tension post-Brexit in the UK) I am starting to worry that some parts of society are beginning to think it IS socially acceptable to be openly racist. I find this terrifying, so I can only imagine how you feel about it.

  7. I’m white, and I thought this was fair. Not hard to swallow at all. Now that the Nazis are out of the bag, the post-socially-acceptable-to-be-openly-racist society—period is starting to look pretty good. I agree with most of this, but I got a good education on the nature of slavery and Jim Crow laws, though admittedly, most of it came from Roots, the original, which aired when I was about 13. It changed my life, and brought home the cruelty of slavery and post slavery terrorism. It has taken me a long time, though, to get over my nervousness that black people might dislike me and prejudge me because of my whiteness… and that has become an impediment of another kind.

    1. Hi Lale! Thanks for reading. Unfortunately, the awareness you were able to establish as a kid about the institutions of slavery and Jim Crow are not the norm in the U.S. It is our nation’s tendency to sanitize– if not outright omit– these moments in history in social studies curriculum. Thus, we only learn about these things in so far as our parents/peers are willing to elaborate on them and by taking our own initiative to dig deeper.

      And while your feelings of black people potentially not liking you–whether real or imagined– might suck, it would never cause you to miss out on a career, be brutalized by the police, or face any real, systemic oppression. And I urge you to empathize with people of color’s sense of mistrust in the white mainstream at the moment. Recent political events have left many of us who came up in the era of “colorblindness” wondering how many of our non-POC “friends” secretly don’t care about issues facing us.

  8. Wow, thorough and meticulous!

  9. Thank you so much for writing this. Do you mind if I share? I feel this is incredibly well written, and valuable information.

  10. I have to agree. As a student growing up, I was a child of the multicultural education.. We experienced culture, endorsed the beautiful and diverse aspects of each, and we grew up having these blinders of “racial issues don’t exist.” I never really saw it myself until my first college composition course. We read this article about how Hawaii is one of the most mixed people populations and yet racisim is still high. The only thing my classmates heard was “Hawaii is so diverse.” I was like, did we read the same article?! I know it doesn’t mean much, but my blinders are off..

  11. Hi, I’m Still in Secondary school and I am now going into yr10! I am black and I’ve have experienced this a lot. I just think people should be people more careful and understanding and maybe try and see from our point of view… : )

  12. How can this be time stamped August 25,2017 at pm unless all these posts are coming from over seas … ? Hummm mmm your not even here and your making a ruckeuos …. ? Schismatic ….

    1. Not sure what exactly you’re asking, but this post was published on July 1.

      1. Each post has a time stamp. I look back and figured the writer in the comment must have been using a computer who’s clock was wrong. Today this is highly unlikely. The new Real Time mangement.

    2. I’ve a feeling it’s because this was recently spotlighted on WordPress, hence the flurry of comments on August 25th!

  13. I am white and have documents proving that 5 generations of my family were slaves. Not one of them were black. This slavery issue isn’t so “black and white” after all.

    1. That is an interesting fact. Something I didn’t know could occur.
      I don’t know how much you and your family have experienced the terrible side of the continuing legacy of African American slavery.
      It strikes me that your experience cannot in any way negate the continuing horror of the other.
      Best wishes , Jessie

      1. My point was, and still is, these issues are dealt with by white people too.
        I get followed by security in a store.
        If the alarm at the door goes off because of someone in front of me, I get my bags and pockets searched. I have to prove I bought everything.
        When I get pulled over, the cop won’t get out of the car until 3 other cars arrive.
        None of this negates anything anyone else goes through.
        I am just saying its not so black and white.

      2. None of these things happen on account of you being white. Let’s get serious here.

      3. Long memories of ancestry is what causes them.

      4. But how would security and cops know that you have an ancestry of slavery? Doesn’t ring a bell

      5. In a small town everybody knows everything about everybody.

      6. You may have some African ancestry just like I have 18 percent European ancestry. However, when we talk about race and privilege, we must understand that race is a social construct. This construct was not developed and has not been upheld with regard to people’s true genetic makeup, but rather outward appearances and their associations. This is why “white-passing” people with black heritage were encouraged during times of slavery and Jim Crow law to reject their blackness and live out their lives benefiting from systems designed to favor white people. An example being white-passing people using their observed privilege to attend whites-only educational institutions.

        Based on what I see from your avatar, you are white-passing enough that you benefit from the social and cultural privileges that are afforded to white people.

      7. As far as true ancestry goes, I don’t know. The documents say that due to family debt such and such are to be the property of such and such. That the debt will be handed down through the generations until such debt is paid, including a percentage of interest and subtracting such and such for room and board.

        It was not my intention to try to make your experiences seem less than they are. They are horrible things to endure and I am glad you’re strong enough to bring it to the attention of others.

        I was just trying to bring to light that slavery included whites as well as other races and bigotry doesn’t care about anything but finding an excuse to hate.

        I have a theory that people who make other people unhappy are trying to hide how unhappy they are with the choices they have made.

        All I can do is hope things get better in the future. For all of us.

        May your blessings outweigh your trials.

  14. It needs courage and heart to bear the wrongs of racism but speak politely to the world who can relate to the pain and stand against it so that such pains are not inflicted ever again on anyone ..
    Humanity does not breathe by race caste or creed but love , affection and empathy.
    Nice post.. keep up the good work !

  15. I’m overwhelmed. I’m helpless and tearful. You have allowed me to live at a nano level of experience yours,and for me it is too much to bear. Congratulations on getting through every day and making a life. I admire beyond words every person who does that without despair. I can understand those who do despair. Thank you

    1. Hi Jessie! Thanks for visiting my site. I urge you to take those overwhelming feelings towards the issues and I mentioned and let them inspire you to help dismantle institutional racism. Have a wonderful rest of your day!

  16. This is a necessary piece and I am was happy to see it on my reader. I agree that many times white people simply cannot comprehend what the black experience is just as men have trouble grasping what women face daily in the media (constant objectification) and otherwise. I guess what upsets me about race relations in the current climate is the assumption that being white means you do not have anything to say about race or race relations. Relations can only exist if there is more than one. Race relations in the US are a dynamic issue with many sides. White people have experiences (some negative, some positive) related to race and race relations, too, because we are part of the equation. I distinctly remember that a week after moving from Texas to Memphis, I was beaten up at school by a fellow classmate. I was about 8 years old and my classmate the same age. She was a young African American female. After the beating, she told me she was beating me for the things my ancestors did to her ancestors. I was shocked. I didn’t even know what the word “ancestor” meant. It was not until later I would learn what her motive for the beating was, and how wrong she was. My family has been poor for hundreds of years. I doubt any of my family was in the elite planter class. Only a handful of people in the South owned slaved because only the upper elite had the resources. Unfortunately, the lower classes still upheld the values that benefited the rich despite it being against their own self-interest…similar to the many poor whites who rally support for Trump despite it being against their best interest. The second thing that bothers me is the belief that being a white girl means I do not know what oppression, pain or suffering is. That being white means I have lived a privileged life inside a bubble of joy. That is a stereotype that needs to die because it is a slap in the face to many white people who are very intimately aware of what pain and oppression looks like. I am a white girl and also a survivor of serious child abuse, left home at 15 to live on the streets of Memphis where my poverty surely put me in many oppressive situations. With those two grievances made, I–with a whole heart–believe we have ways to go in healing the scars of the not so distant past, but I think the conversation needs to happen with a bit more of “we are in this together” than a “us” versus ‘them” mentality. That mentality will ONLY DIVIDE. I am willing to be open to everyone’s experience and to the process of making those experiences more positive especially when it comes to us (as people) coming together because we all NEED one another. We are facing serious problems on this planet that transcend petty human squabbles such as climate change and we are living in the midst of the 6th mass extinction– and facing all this with a seriously mentally ill man running our nation. So, I hope we can come together and look for what unites us more adamantly than what separates us because divided we are conquered. Thank you for the time you took to write your essay and peace to you and all you care about.

    1. Hi there! There’s a lot to digest here but allow me to address what I believe are your two main points: 1) Racial prejudice can exist amongst all races and 2) White people are capable of experiencing oppression.

      I don’t disagree with either of these assertions. However, I think in order to understand institutionalized racism, we have to look at race relations on a macro level rather than a micro level. I can say with confidence that you did not grow up in a society where images and perceptions of white people as a lazy, uneducated, intellectually inferior, physically unattractive, and inherently criminal group of people were fed to you on a daily basis. See where I’m going with this? While prejudice can be a two-lane road, racism is a one-way street that requires a dominant group to have unequivocal political, economic, and social control over a marginalized group of people. History has mandated that white people have been the sole wielders of that level of power in this country.

      Secondly, oppression has many intersections. One can experience oppression on the basis of things like race, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation–individually or perhaps all at once. While you may have faced adversity on the basis of being poor and a woman, the intersection of race simply isn’t there. And while I do sympathize with your harsh life experiences, this piece was specifically focused on the factor of race.

      1. You are very right and I appreciate the reply. You explain this very well. You are right that I did not grow up being spoon fed media images depicting my race as criminals, unattractive, etc. And unfortunately this is still going on, and though I am white, it annoys me, too because I am a big believer in equality. I will give an example: Lifetime Movie Network decided that they would diverge from just having movies about white people (finally, lol) that they would make a whole line of movies depicting African Americans. I was happy to see this and decided to sit down to a few of them. I was horrified to find that the leading ladies and men (the good guys) were black, yes, but mostly white. I wondered why the leading man or woman couldn’t just be a black person…why did they have to be half white? I see this in other movie and media images too, and I think it is disgusting. However, as a poor southerner, I can definitely say the media has some pretty nasty stereotypes for us. We are really dumb for one, with buck teeth and deer jerky enough to last three winters. LOL. I understand though. It is not as pervasive, nor as sinister and I agree, it is damaging and sad.

        You are also very right in how you explain racism and how the dominant force can not exactly be repressed…sorda like it would sound silly for men to claim that women are oppressing them just because some women beat their male spouses. However, all these experiences of racism should be discussed. I think by openly talking about all of our experiences in spaces of kindness is how we can heal.

        I am not trying to equate my childhood to the same form of oppression as racism, but that the stereotype about WHITE GIRL gets real old for me, personally. I have actually had fellow college mates tell me that I was unable to contribute to certain discussions on race simply because I was a white girl and just didn’t know anything outside my perceived perfect existence. We all know what the stereotype is too: Grew up in the suburbs, dance school, Starbucks, slumber parties, etc. The point is whether you are white, black, short, fat, etc, we all face stereotypes and they hurt!

        And from that point, my last point is that do we not share more in common than we differ? Is not the flesh and blood experience of this life enough to unite us? I hope so. I really do.

        Thank you for conversing the topic with me, and not reacting with the knee jerk reaction I am accustomed to which is to be told I have nothing to add to the conversation. And congrats to you for speaking openly about your experiences, and sharing them with others. Peace.

      2. I’m glad we could have a productive dialogue! Thank you for stopping by.

  17. I must say you express yourself very well. Since i am a so called privilege white person i can’t understand your struggles completely. i do have other black friends who would disagree with what you feel. Not all of us white people are racist and not all black people are not racist goes both ways I am afraid. I do not look at color I look at attitude and behaviors in every race including my own to determine if those are who I wish to associate with. I just wanted to say your blog was very well written.

    1. Hello there! Thank you for reading. Please see my reply to camerashootshot in regard to racism “going both ways”. And I’m sure there are black folks out there who would disagree–we’re a diverse, multifaceted group of people who have a wide range of opinions and perceptions on these topics.

      1. Don’t we all. But unfortunately seeing each other all as “one” is not a solid course of action that can be taken to undo policies and generational legacies that keep racism alive and institutionalized in America.

      2. But do you see that it is being perpetuated from the left that this is done purposely to keep people segregated I know you probably won’t believe me and I know history and trust me I know the Democratic Party in the left. I wish you nothing but the best.

      3. This is bigger than left vs. right. I can assure you that many of the people who experience and speak out against these issues are not aligned with current bipartisan politics. However, racism is not perpetuated by people talking about it. It is perpetuated by lawmakers, law enforcers, corporate entities who dump on communities of color in the name of “development”, and well-meaning but complicit people who are afraid or unwilling to call racism what it is and address its impact.

  18. Great post! Looking forward to reading more from you!
    Part of my graduate study four or five years ago was spent in studying many of the issues you raise here, and I absolutely agree with your assessments of the situation as well as your feelings about it.
    I wish every white person in the world could be confronted with the material that I was. I wish they *really* knew about the horrors of slavery and of lynchings, and because I know that that isn’t possible for me OR them, I really wish we (white people) could all walk for a day in the shoes of a black person (and particularly of a black man). Some things just can’t be talked through. They have to be lived to be understood.
    Failing that, there’s great stuff to be read, and fiction shouldn’t be discounted: W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison — just to name a few.

    1. Hi Angie! Thank you for reading. I too wish that everyone was on the same level of awareness and understanding of these topics. We wouldn’t have a lot of the messy race relations we have today if that were the case!

  19. Liz, you are an engaging writer and bring up many valid points in your piece. I enjoyed reading it. I believe this day to have been enlightened by some of the arguments you put forth. But please hear my criticism of your style and strategy more than the validity of substance of your writing. Your essay (at times) and your response to critics, are both condescending and hyper-defensive. I’m not sure if this is due to a perceived position of intellectual superiority or a genuine disdain for those you are addressing. Either way, you can do better than that. You are too good of a writer and too knowledgable to not engage in meaningful discourse. I understand that this may not be the platform, but you don’t do your cause justice when you write without grace, mercy, and patience. As you plead for us to consider the long-lasting effects of the travesty of American race relations history, please consider that changing the mind-set of millions of white folks will take time, kindness and a liberal extension of grace.

    1. Hello Mr. Phelps,

      While I can appreciate constructive criticism and sincerely thank you for taking the time to read my writing, I must ask you not to attempt any tone-policing here. You perceive my responses as “hyper-defensive” because my life experiences have led me to take a straight-talking approach when it comes to this subject area. I’ve spent many years being patient with privileged people who deliberately talk over me, psychologically gaslight me about my life experiences and historical facts, and derail conversations to center around themselves instead of the issues at hand. I am under no obligation to coddle anyone who steps into my arena with the intent to do any of the actions mentioned above. Lastly, I would like to strongly discourage you from any future attempts to moderate a POC’s manner of addressing privileged deflections.

    2. Furthermore, I never intended to “plead” with any white person in my writing of this piece. And while I don’t think you intended any harm, that assessment is a rather privileged one. I’m simply offering my insights on American race relations as someone who has spent 23 years being black in America.

  20. This was a well-thoughtful-and-powerful message that you have shared with us. I can recall the courses I had to complete as a requirement, and the different movies I had to review for a grade, that personally felt tough for me to endure watching and hearing about growing up. At the same time, just like documentaries today, I question if all of it is true or is it full of many snippets of half truths? This was a very nice read.

    1. Hi Shakiya! Thank you for stopping by and I’m so glad to hear that my writing resonated with you.

  21. Simply marvelous. And right on the money regarding the state of cultural education in the United States. We don’t talk about slavery in primary school like we should. We live in a society which desires to shield our youth from the horrors of the past, all whilst dooming them to repeat it. I’ve also witnessed the very things you described firsthand. I wish there was a way to undo the racial indoctrination created within the white community on a mass scale. But what you’re doing is a step in the right direction. This was an excellent piece, and one I wish everyone would read. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

  22. Thank you for this Liz. I think often about what I wasn’t taught and what wasn’t discussed in school around slavery, U.S. history and racism. There was barely any breadth to it let alone depth, such as social and economic oppression and the sheer weight and trauma of history. Now as my husband and I raise three girls ourselves, we’re well aware of the lack of information and discussion around these topics STILL. I truly appreciate you being part of this conversation so honestly and openly. Your words are another point of engagement for me and my family. xo

    1. Hi Lisa! Thank you very much for your readership and kind words. Your daughters are very lucky to have such awesome parents!

  23. First, I feel sorry for you. Having to defend your article on race from racists is beyond irritating to me and then being mansplained about what it is like to be a black woman. I am angry again just thinking about it.

    But you handled it all very well and I was very impressed. I wouldn’t have had the patience.

    I wanted to talk about my experience as a white woman who taught world history. A black student of mine asked when we were going to study Africa. I still remember how my stomach felt sick when I had to answer, “We don’t study the African kingdoms. We only study Africa in terms of the Asian and European involvement.” That has always stayed with me.

    I am a student of history but have never taken a class on African history and it has never been offered. It is not a subject in public schools. Having gone to a small college there was one offering by the French professor who just so happened to have been born and raised in Africa, otherwise there would have been nothing. I never took it because it never fit into my schedule. This is the first problem.

    The second problem is that even though slavery is studied extensively in world history and American history classes it is always from the white perspective. As the teacher I had talking points I had to address because the kids had to take a test to prove I did my job. Slaves were needed to replace the native population that died due to European disease. Slaves were needed to establish the economies of the New World. Slavery had existed for thousands of years and was difficult to remove from society. Obviously, there is more and I could go on but teachers unintentionally justify slavery. With years of public school constantly justifying why slavery was used it is a wonder anyone graduates identifying as a non-racist.

    The final problem, when a teacher does get to the 20th Century, the Civil Rights Movement is talked about in the whitest way possible. Even Martin Luther King has been white washed thanks to the public school system. He has become the standard bearer for minorities protesting. “He did it the right way.” If he had done it the right way he would not have been assassinated. But in terms of teaching about the Civil Rights Movement how much should a teacher show? All of it? Some of it? When I was a new teacher with no tenure, when it was Black History Month I didn’t get into a real history of black people. It was bullshit. But as I look back and I think about what I should have done I have to ask, “Would I have been fired if I showed the real stuff?”

    Can a teacher, especially a new teacher with no tenure protection tackle the issues that really matter to the black community.

    My answer is actually a resounding yes. I am not advocating not teaching the real, brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow and problems in modern times but this is a conversation that needs to be had.

    I have promised myself that if I ever teach again I will teach the real brutal history and take the consequences but make no mistake, there will be consequences. I am not sure the white community is ready for their children to know the truth.

    For reference, I had a meeting with administration because I taught that Henry VIII divorced and executed his wives because of his obsession with having a son. A student asked, “But doesn’t the man determine gender?” I answered yes. Apparently, only god can decide.

    If I got in trouble for that, many teachers will have problems teaching a real history.

    Sorry for the length. I just think it is important.

    1. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to give such an honest perspective. I wish more educators shared your outlook and passion for truth.

  24. I am glad to see a writer like you, there are too many people trying to argue instead of educating others on what is going on. I even took the time to see how you would reply average counter argument, I honestly do not have hope anymore that things will change and that instead we will adjust like our culture has always done. Keep on fighting Liz I’ll be reading.

    1. Thank you! That means a lot to me. I’ve always been reluctant to refer to myself as an “activist” but my heightened awareness of what goes on in this country compels me to write about these issues. I will admit, it does frequently take an emotional toll on me but I refuse to be silent.

  25. I really enjoyed this post and thought it was very well-written! I hope you don’t mind if I reference it in an upcoming post on my own page.
    -Vernesha

    1. Hi Vernesha! Thank you for reading. Feel free to share/reference wherever 🙂

  26. As a minority I felt as though this post bought light to issues that I know exist but have trouble explaining to people.

  27. Your writing resonates with my experiences… Thank you for sharing.

  28. One of the things that often strikes me when reading a piece like this is how people of color often have a much better understanding of white people than white people do of people of color, and of ourselves. This is why black and brown voices are necessary. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to hear truth but we must take a seat and listen. I absolutely love how you pointed out how we haven’t developed our understanding of race relations beyond the most sanitized version that was offered to us as children. I mean, wow. Thank you for that truth. I’m going to look around on your blog for any references to educational materials. I’ve been searching specifically for things regarding ancient black history since I saw a tee shirt a year or so ago that said, “Black history didn’t start with slavery.” Thank you for sharing your insight.

    1. Thank you for reading! You’ve made a very telling observation here: “people of color often have a much better understanding of white people than white people do of people of color.”

      I wish more people had this level of insight. So many white people want to be an authority on another group’s culture and experiences without having spent much time in non-white spaces. On the flip side, many POC have had years worth of experience navigating through white spaces and making these one-sided observations.

      In order for POC to successfully move through predominantly white institutions such as our work places and educational programs, we must become so-called “experts” on white people. I code switch everyday so as to not be perceived as ghetto, incompetent, or attitudinal, as I mentioned in the essay. Anytime I’ve gone into a job interview since I’ve had natural hair, I’ve wondered whether or not my hair would be seen as “unprofessional” and prevent me from being hired.

      I think many white people are simply ignorant of the amount of emotional labor POC do to appease them and their standards on a daily basis, just to get by. That right there is why I refuse to sugar coat these messages or coddle anyone’s fragility about their complicity in racism.

      1. Thank you for not sugar coating as you write. We need a mirror held up to us so we can see ourselves in all of this. I read something once that said in order to understand oppression we must focus on the oppressor. That’s exactly what we instinctively resist doing because we are the oppressor (collectively, systemically). We don’t mind sitting in church and being told from the pulpit about our sins of gluttony and so forth but we don’t see ourselves as being taken to church when POC speak truth to us, about us. Where is our humility?

        So many times, even in this thread, I have the urge to jump in and respond to the ignorance and vitriol of other white people. If I am in a white space I definitely stand up, but in your space about your experience it is your voice that is needed. So I “check” myself. Is it a bit of white saviorism within me that wants to jump in and defend? Or a hundred other white perspectives that might be driving me to respond… So what I’m saying is that just as you have learned to read the room or alter your approach, white people need to learn to do that as well. We often just plow through conversations with little to no regard for how our words and actions marginalize anyone who is different from us in skin color or life experience. It seems that ever since integration officially began we have continued to resist fully sharing this space with POC in lots of subtle ways, such as not honoring your voices. We still seem to want you to monitor your hair, your facial expressions. When a white person victimizes a POC, we ask them if they forgive the perpetrator. Always, always placing the burden on the POC to be angelic in order for us to think they are okay…to prove they are “one of the good ones”. We’ve got it all wrong.

      2. Thank you for engaging my rather long-winded comment. It’s great how aware you are of the subtle ways in which racism is facilitated on a daily basis. Just last week, three of my black coworkers and I ended up in the break room at the same time by chance and one made a joke saying, “you know we can’t all be in here like this.” We all knew what that meant and busted out laughing. But the sad truth is, we do have to be aware of how something as simple as gathering and talking amongst ourselves could be perceived. Whether it’s in the workplace or on the street, black folks hanging out is often seen as some type of collusion to cause trouble.

        And as for you wanting to chime in with the people who come here to deflect, I say go for it. I understand your reluctance and consciousness about playing a savior role, but it’s actually is a good thing for white allies to correct people within their own collective. Sadly, that is the only way some will come into understanding about these things.

      3. Thank you, I surely will speak up then. And maybe now that white supremacists are out of the closet white men gathering together in open spaces will also be looked upon with suspicion, haha. Maybe then we would all begin to see a little bit of what it’s like for POC just to innocently exist. Any insight I have is due to the patience of POC who I have listened to and read. Surely after all this time it is patience that allows writers such as yourself to engage with us.

  29. Hello Liz,love your work here I am a white from a country where whites were slaves and the left overs of displaced persons and the clash of cultures and development.You touched my heart and I am amazed at your writing ability and patience dealing with the various responses.I have recently been living in a white minority situation with likeminded and kin spirited hosts,we are entitled to call each other brother and sister,although distorted cultural identities pushing for dominance and importance disrupt the peace and beauty of multinational oneness.We are living in a portion of time were the governments of this world WANT oneness!
    This is very dangerous for those of us that want payment for wrong done!
    There will be a better world and I don’t knock your stand for governmental change,how it relates to the black American culture and life,my God made all men equal and I for one look to the day that nothing will hinder love from flowing between two spirits continually and onwards.
    Thank you

  30. for every thesis there is an anti thesis and when it comes to racism there are a lot of denials and unwillingness to accept responsibility. You are correct, we do not live in a post racist society. America has not come to terms with its racist tradition…..

  31. I love to read such works! And I would love to add: we are all the same and we should share more of LOVE. We are all equal and naturally good. We shouldn’t fight with the nature <3

  32. As I was reading your post I, naive white woman from Europe, was thinking “wow, everyone should read this, there’s no way someone who judges somebody else based on color of their skin wouldn’t be ashamed.” I scrolled down to leave you a comment and was shocked to see so many negative comments, coming from white men, actually trying to justify themselves. They sure don’t mind being a stereotype, don’t they? I loved your response: “The only point you’ve proven here is that White male fragility is a given anytime an honest conversation on race relations comes about.” White male fragility! Starter point of almost everything that’s wrong with this world.

  33. Racism is such an incredibly complex facet of our society to try to wrap your head around, even when you belong to a minority and experience it first hand. Black people can most certainly be racist, towards both whites and to other black people – but that sort of racism is completely different to toxic and ingrained institutionalised barriers that PoC face in America, and in former English/Western colonies. I feel as tho a complex issue is made much more complex by the nuanced differences within the issue that a lot of people either aren’t fully aware of, or don’t properly acknowledge.

    1. As I mentioned before, there’s a difference between racism and prejudice. Racism requires a dominant group to hold power over a marginalized group. Black people in America have never had that kind of power over white people or any other ethnic group. Anyone, however, is capable of being prejudiced.

      1. I feel as though your definition of racism is quite specifically defined. Are you saying that prejudging someone based on their race is isn’t just a less overarching form of racism?
        When you say black people have never had that kind of power of another ethnic group, do u mean just in America?

      2. Yes, I’m specifically talking about racism in America. With all due respect, there is not much left for me to say to differentiate what the terms “racism” and “prejudice” mean. One requires power and the other only requires bias. Calling a black person racist against a white person is like a rich person calling a poor person “classist” or a man calling a woman “sexist”. The power differential is the defining characteristic with all these terms.

  34. Beautifully well written. At 44 years of age, (11 years ago) I became a documented, “[woman] with an attitude” when a white nurse reported me to the white Unit Charge nurse for LOOKING like I had an attitude, merely because I didn’t have a jovial demeanor that day. After I defined that critique as racist, and noted that as a black woman I should be able to look any way that I want, I told her to either write me up or fire me for not continuing this nonsense conversation, and I walked out of her office. I didn’t receive a write-up or a termination letter. But more importantly, I didn’t receive an apology for that blatant show of racism. That was in 2006, and now with the current administration, the door that kept SOME racist behaviors covert, is now wide open. We can’t be afraid of consequences to speak out against racism in any way we can. Thank you for your candor. 😉

    1. Hi Vicki! Thanks so much for stopping by. My mother is the same age as you and similarly, has faced a lot of opposition as a black female lawyer. I’m a recent college grad and as excited as I am to build my career, I’m hyperaware of how difficult being a black professional can be.

  35. There is one simple line, one line which tells the true story of racism, segregation by beliefs, color, ideology, or your body parts. That one simple line is, “History is always rewritten by majority.”

  36. im indian in class 9th . First of all before writing my comment . I ask for a “sorry ” if I say something wrong .
    We all children are tought about white’s discrimination on indians and all . But no one figures out the good things they left .
    1- education.
    2- railways .
    3- modern thoughts .
    And everything we use now .
    They took money and made us slave . They disrespected us .
    But at last I say if britishers respected and understood indians and indians did the same too .
    Then there was a solution for all this.
    Gandhi and nehru ruined the nation .
    But at last the most stupid point I say is that I havnt read your post at all and I just wanted to share this thing . So I don’t make any arguments here .i was just expressing my opinion 😇

  37. Racism exists as do differing perspectives about why. It saddens me that in this country it’s such a black/white issue. Until we, all of us, rid ourselves of preconceived attitudes and learn to accept one another as equal humans nothing is going to change. That’s a hard truth.

    1. Unfortunately, solving racism is a bit more complicated than everyone just learning to accept one another. Racism is not just interpersonal grievances; it’s also political and economic systems that keep white people dominant over POC. It’s an institution that has been upheld for hundreds of years through policy, law enforcement practices, education, environmental injustices, and outright violence and bodily control. People need to be aware of these systemic factors so that we can work toward meaningful change by undoing them.

  38. Heck of a post! I must say that reading a book recently by Jodi Picoult, “Small Great Things” did really make me think about things more. Yes, I am white. She wrote of such examples as how black woman can easily list white hair products but white woman couldn’t do the same with black hair products, etc. Then there is the black dolls not as readily available, etc. it really did make me notice more, Although I do personally think the racism is also towards people who aren’t rich either…I hate to say poor as that’s too much of a vague word but feel this is an issue too. My only time I can say I experienced a taste of what it must feel like is when I worked as the only white chick in a dept, of 50 women. Only about 5% of my coworkers treated me in a welcoming fashion whatsoever, the rest eventually I became friends with but I sure didn’t like being on the receiving end of racism for the sole reason of being white. It was a humbling and eye opening experience but mine was only a short version of experiencing racism. Nice post.

  39. I think colour doesn’t matters . 😶
    And all are made by same lord .
    I don’t know which lord.
    But there is someone.
    Humans made religion and customs.
    And successors made them more stupid.
    And what we follow affect our thinking too .
    No religion teaches white black or any difference.
    But people make their opinions and spread them .
    And other people stupidly follow it .
    It would be perfect if one do believe in humanity . And it won’t cause any discrimination.

  40. Beautiful piece. I truly admire the passion in your writing and how strong you stand for equality while still making some very factual points. Amazing! Keep doing what you’re doing.

  41. Never heard of the term ‘environmental racism’ before I read your reply in the comments section.

    I went away and did a bit of reading… Seems like a genuine, real and substantial issue, in the US.

    I’m currently evaluating, synthesising and reflecting upon racial issues in the UK. I’m not fully convinced that there are too many similarities between the UK and US, but it is evident that it is more difficult for minorities to get a ‘professional’ job. If I just take my available data from my profession, teaching, colleagues from a minority background are still incredibly rare and I’ve not yet met a non-white head teacher, assistant head teacher or other senior teaching staff.

    1. Hi Benjamin! I’m glad you were able to take away something new from here. I’ve never been to the UK but I can say with confidence that racism is a global occurrence. Your observations definitely parallel mine, insofar as there being huge discrepancies between white and POC professionals holding positions of authority.

      1. Absolutely. If you just look at statistics, Black and Ethnic Minorities (BEM) account for 25% of students, whereas there are only 7% BEM teachers.

        I do dislike the term BEM, but alas, it is what most Britons understand. It’s just a synonym for POC.

      2. I’ve never heard the term “BEM”. You just put me onto something new.

      3. It’s the commonly used acronym used in UK education to describe anyone ‘non-white’.

        Hope you enjoy your foray into the overwhelming, acronym heavy world of British education!

Leave a Reply