Understanding Systemic Racism
What a tragic week of murder and chaos this has been after months of coronavirus fear and quarantine. It’s all been weighing on me – the sadness, not knowing what to do or how to feel but also, not attending the protests. I made the decision early on to sit out the protests because the risk of getting sick with coronavirus seemed to great as thousands of people piled together amidst a pandemic. For me, Coronavirus was my biggest threat.
That right there is my white privilege. I always knew it existed but never thought about it too much. That is my white privilege.
For many people, police brutality is a bigger threat to their lives than the virus itself. Coronavirus has disproportionately affected black communities and systemic racism made them more vulnerable in the first place.
As a person who has always cared about all people despite the color of their skin, volunteered in organizations to help the under-privileged and especially as a transman, I felt allied in solidarity with other minority groups.
The truth is, I walk through this world now with male privilege and white privilege. I have transitioned into having the same privilege that any other white man is automatically afforded. But, I would never dream of condoning racism so I am not part of the problem, right? Wrong. There is deep, systemic racism in this country that has lasted for decades and to identify myself as an all-inclusive, non-racist person is not enough. I must take action in many different ways!
Over the past week I’ve processed my thoughts and feelings and weighed the risks but for people of color, their lives are in danger every day. The color of their skin is an automatic threat to their lives. The fact that I even have a choice in any of this, is privilege.
To not join the protests in order to secure my own safety is white privilege and perpetuating the inequality in this country.
Having a choice is a luxury.
Being able to decide when it’s convenient to stand up is a luxury.
Being given the benefit of the doubt and access to resources as normality, is a luxury.
Being able to weigh my risks and benefits, is a luxury.
A choice to remain silent is a luxury.
Knowing that no matter which choice I make or don’t make, I am still safe, is a luxury.
This is my white privilege.
Did I ever earn these things? No, I came by them because of my white skin.
So how do I help? Is there a wrong way and a right way to show my support of the black community? Should I have said this? Should I not have said that? I admit that I’ve been afraid of offending somebody by doing the “wrong thing”.
I may not have the answers but it’s time to start getting them.
I realize now that the first step is to accept that discomfort and also acknowledge and commit to further understanding my own white privilege. I have asked others to step into their own discomfort in order to understand my identity as transgender. It is now time for me to step into my discomfort to better understand the experience of people of color on a deeper level.
The second step for me is to become educated- to understand my part in bias, white privilege and my ability to influence the marginalizing of others because of that whiteness. My goal is to become acutely conscious and mindful of the nuances of deeply engrained disparities within our society, beyond the obvious racism I’ve always condemned so that I can end my unconscious participation or perpetuation of them.
It is imperative to:
Learn when to listen and when to speak up.
Risk my automatic comforts of being white.
Engage in anti-bias work and pollical outreach.
Become conscious of subtle bias and discrimination that have been normalized.
Just START somewhere. LEARN.
Footage of the murder of George Floyd haunts me as my mind continues to replay it over and over. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be dying for almost nine minutes at the hand of another human being. I keep hearing his last words as he cried out for his mama, his face smashed into the ground as he was suffocated by the knee of another man.
“Mama, mama,” he begged.
It is not uncommon for the dying – soldiers in war, patients in hospice and hospitals, to cry out to their mothers in their last dying moments. A desperate longing seems to exist of being saved by the unconditional love of a mother, embraced in her arms, knowing you are not alone as you exit this world. Is this a universal need to come into this life through the mother and let her accompany you on your way out? Is it the safety of a mother’s arms that we long for as our last memory? Do we come full circle through this lifetime and end up pining for that existence as a swaddled baby bundled up against a beating heart?
Even as I write this, I wonder, are people of color ever really safe, even in a mother’s embrace or is this concept of safety a luxury of being white?
Or, does mother’s embrace just give them a precious moment of reprieve from the fear of existing in a world that has never protected them or kept them safe anyways?
Mama. Let this word represent a sacred miracle of life. This should never be the last words of a man slowly being murdered because of the color of his skin.