When I was a kid, I was raised to be colorblind (to learn why color blindness is racism, go here). I wasn’t raised in a family that fell into the typical racist family genre i.e. hearing the N word, racist rhetoric, daily undertones. In fact, the only time I had ever heard the N word was in books (thanks Huck Finn) and no one had explained the gravity of that word. My mom intended good things, she never wanted me to hate others. Except, no one told me the horrific of the black people endure, because in the eighties/nineties, everyone thought the civil rights movement was over. By everyone, I mean white people. So since I wasn’t taught any different, I grew up falling into the wrong crowd, who used those words and did mean things.
It’s why I’m a big believer that it is never too early for white kids to learn about racism. In fact, I think they should know all of the nastiness. I mean, black kids need to have the discussion with their parents on how to behave so cops don’t kill them…why shouldn’t white kids learn about what people of color endure? I wish someone had sat me down and taught me about white privilege/systemic racism, because then I wouldn’t have done and said the things I did as a kid. I was very much like, “slavery was ages ago, why you so big mad still?” Spewing racist immigration rhetoric, because Texas has been all about it for decades. My knowledge of race was an empty cup and as a result, society filled it. Let me tell you, it’s fucking hard to wash out that damn cup.
It’s possible to be entirely empathetic and ignorant at the same time. We see it daily, online and in person. In our families, with our friends. Racism is so indoctrinated into American culture, we can’t even look at it directly. The foundation is so solid, so impermeable. It’s overwhelming, to see all the work that still needs to be done.
But I’m gonna tell you what I tell the kids: permanent change happens in small bites. Each riot/protest brings us closer. I just wish the cost wasn’t more black bodies. Change is often painful and brutal. It’s necessary though. It is right. It is inevitable.