I went to a peaceful gathering last night at Fresno State in solidarity of the oppressed and wounded in Charlottesville and afterward I had many thoughts go through my mind.
My initial reaction was that it was incredibly refreshing to see so many people gather in response to what is happening all around us. It was uplifting to see the people and hear the stories that were in response to the racist hate that has surfaced recently. I was glad that I went to share this moment with several community acquaintances that share the same conviction as I toward racial equality and more specifically an anti-oppressive perspective.
I then considered my own place in all of this. It wasn’t particularly easy to spend time analyzing my own response to my own privilege and what I can do to help make a difference. How do I relate? Should I relate? How have I contributed to the problem? How do I take a stand? How can I make a difference? How will I react when this happens again? Will my kids be proud with the side of history that I chose to stand?
As I now stand, I am part of a biracial marriage with children that could very easily become victims of racial oppression based on the fact that they are part Mexican. It gives me cause to consider this topic with a heavy heart. As a white male I have lived a life with certain amounts of privilege, and that privilege will probably spill over to my children and lessen their experiences with oppression. Or, if we consider the pessimistic reality of things their mixture of ethnicities could cause a more difficult experience if the rise of nationalism and ethnicism grows so much that it creates a bigger divide than it already has.
At my core, my most passionate convictions are those that involve racial equality. It’s not enough to say “it is not us” or to continue with the mindset of colorblindness. To say either one of those common copouts as an excuse to ignore the root cause is simply adding to the systemic racist nature of our culture. White America has a long history of dominance. We explore and conquer. We rise and lead. We have labeled others as inferior or unworthy so that we could obtain the desired prize at the end of the day. We are not necessarily guilty by association of those before us but to ignore the generalization for the sake of removing yourself from blame is irresponsible and, frankly, immoral.
Additionally, to say that there are many sides to this violence in response to racial tensions is the literal Rubik’s cube equivalent to solving only the white side and being outraged when the “solved” side is temporarily disturbed to help the other colors.
As I attempt to channel my thoughts I realize that what we are seeing now is not an erosion of white values, it is not adopting a white-apologist narrative, but it is simply a gesture of kindness in order for all sides to be treated equal. The inconvenience that a white person might feel in response to a person of color wanting to be seen as an equal is nothing compared to what any of these ethnicities have endured in their recent past experiences in this country. It is imperative that we are able to empathize this and consider the experiences of others beyond the comfort of our own privilege.
Consider those beyond the walls of your home. Consider those on the other side of town or on the other side of the country. We as white people must be willing to remove ourselves from any selfish desire to relate to these events as a victim and simply stop. Stop and listen to those that actually are. Listen to those that have a history of oppression to support the claim. Stop talking and listen. Stop condemning peaceful protests during the national anthem by people of color. Start admitting that condoning violent demonstrations in the name of racist nationalism as free speech is wrong.
To my white friends and family that believe all lives matter, maybe we should start treating all lives as equal first before we start victimizing our own dominance as the oppressed.