Facing My Own Racism and White Fragility Head On

Facing My Own Racism and White Fragility Head On | Houston Moms Blog

It’s a tough pill to swallow:: as a white person, I participate in white supremacy. I have had racist thoughts and done racist actions. No, I don’t use the N word. I have friends of other races whom I love dearly. I actively seek out opportunities to learn about racial reconciliation and my bookshelf is full of books on race. 

But…I deliberately moved to a “good” neighborhood with “good” schools. I have let racist comments slide without calling them out. I have made assumptions about people’s behavior, personality, and education level based on their skin color. And I center my whiteness, often without even realizing it.

As a white woman raising white children, it was only in recent years that I became acutely aware of the privilege my skin color affords me in this country. I have not been, and likely never will be, discriminated against because of my race. I have never considered the need for a conversation about the police with my children, other than to tell them they are here to protect us. My children see themselves represented in books, television shows, toys, and in their authority figures. I don’t have to worry about them wearing a hoodie when it’s chilly outside; I just pull the sweatshirts over their heads and send them on their way.

The Responsibility that Accompanies Privilege 

Despite my privilege, or perhaps because of it, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to teach my children to not just treat everyone with kindness, but to be actively anti-racist. I want my children to understand that noticing someone’s race, and talking about it, is not taboo. Regardless of what some would have us believe, kids are not colorblind. They notice different skin shades, and are curious. If I silence their questions and act as if race doesn’t matter, I contribute to the problem of racial division instead of helping to eradicate it.

What I didn’t know as a child or even as a young adult was that racism does not always look like using racial slurs or actively shunning someone because of their race. Racism is mostly systemic, and because white people benefit from systems that discriminate against people of color, we often aren’t even aware of our own participation in those systems. I am a part of the racial group that holds the majority of the wealth and power in this country. Because of this, my educational and employment opportunities, as well as my access to healthcare and fair treatment in our justice system are statistically higher than those of people of color. In every aspect in life, I have and have had a head start, simply because of the color of my skin. This is white privilege.

Confronting My Own Racism

Being anti-racist means confronting my own biases and recognizing my own racist thoughts or attitudes when they arise. For me, this means checking myself when I see a group of black children playing rough with each other on the playground and labeling them “troublemakers” in my mind. I ask myself, would I give these children the same label if they were white? It means being aware when I clutch my purse a little tighter when a man with dark skin approaches me in a parking lot. What if he were white? Would I be as nervous? When I read a news story and have a negative reaction or assumption, I ask myself, am I reacting this way because of this person’s race? As white people, it’s embarrassing and can be shameful to face the personal, private ways racism is a part of the air we breathe, but it’s so important.We need to actively combat this white fragility, which is the tendency of white people to become defensive when confronted with racial issues and their own bias. 

The Antidote to Racism

Is there an antidote to racism? Is it possible to eliminate the systemic discrimination of people of color in a country where white people hold so much power? I believe it can be done, but we have much work to do. First, we have to start having intentional conversations, both with our friends of other races, and our children. We have to talk about race, and stop the false narrative of colorblindness. We must stop making “white” the default in our media, toys, and products. As white people, we have to recognize that giving people of color equal opportunities is not oppression of us. 

Resources

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that we {white people} don’t burden our friends of color with our education on race. There are countless books, documentaries, podcasts, and online resources available to educate us; our POC friends don’t owe us that emotional labor. Listed here are several books and podcasts with a wealth of information on this topic.

Books::

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Podcasts::

Smartest Person in the Room:: Bias: A Black and White Conversation Between Friends

Parenting Forward:: Raising White Kids in a Racially Unjust World {interview with Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids}

NPR’s Code Switch

As a white mom of white kids, I am committed to raising my children to be aware of their white privilege and to call out racism when they see it. I have an amazing opportunity to help stop the cycle of racism in this country by parenting a new generation of aware, empathetic kids who truly believe everyone is equal and deserves equal treatment and opportunity. 


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25 Responses to Facing My Own Racism and White Fragility Head On

  1. Avatar
    Amanda May 14, 2019 at 6:16 am #

    Wow.. This post is racist. I’m tired of hearing of white privilege. Do you know that some white people can’t get into universities because of their skin? Universities will pick minorities with everything else being the same over them because of the color of their skin, same goes with some jobs.
    I don’t care who comes up to me in a parking lot white or black if they look sketchy they are going to raise alarms. If I see a group of white kids acting bad I would think the same thing as a group of black kids. Bad behavior comes in all races. Just as good behavior and outstanding people can be black, white, or any other race.

    Nobody should feel bad about the color of their skin that includes white people. Society today and posts like these actually make racism worse.
    I’m sorry, but this just puts a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Avatar
      Kyndal May 14, 2019 at 8:54 am #

      Amen, sister!

    • Avatar
      Jason May 14, 2019 at 11:19 am #

      I won’t categorize the post as racist but it’s poorly reasoned and full of stereotypes.

      “Systemic” racism is largely a myth. Show me specific instances of racism and I will fight against those wholeheartedly. Come at me with generic “I am a part of the racial group that holds the majority of the wealth and power in this country” and you lose me. My salary and net worth aren’t tied to my skin tone. I don’t hold any special power because of it either. Rich white guys exist. Some are good. Some aren’t. But they don’t have any bearing on our choices as individuals to harbor racism in our hearts, speak racist language, or act in a racist manner.

      Loving one’s neighbor is an issue that goes deeper than the skin – to the heart.

      • Avatar
        Maya May 16, 2019 at 7:57 am #

        https://www.upworthy.com/dante-and-david-apply-for-the-same-job-but-only-one-gets-an-interview-heres-the-rest-of-their-day

        And it is a current FACT that black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die due to pregnancy related conditions than whites women. When doctors were interviewed they actually said black women that complained of pain and other symptoms were not believed and or treated in the same way as white women’s same complaints.

        Black ppl are incarcerated more often and for longer sentences for the same exact crimes that are committed by whites

        Black ppl went to jail for long and life sentences behind the sale of marijuana. Marijuana is now legal to sale in many states including California, but the black persons previously incarcerated behind those sales are STILL in jail behind marijuana sentences. Why haven’t they been set free.

        Remember the police chief filing false charges on ppl of color and getting them imprisoned in Florida?

        But it’s not systemic though…

      • Avatar
        Christina May 20, 2019 at 11:39 pm #

        “Systematic” racism is a myth huh? Spoken like a person that has never experienced racism a day in their life. Red lining, mass incarceration, preschool to prison pipeline, etc. Are you kidding me? How about the simple fact that a white family will NEVER EVER have to have the police talk with their children…and will never have to worry sick about them getting pulled over and shot, for NOTHING.

    • Avatar
      Trish May 14, 2019 at 11:51 am #

      Amanda, I bet your fried chicken sucks.

  2. Joi
    Joi May 14, 2019 at 6:44 am #

    First… thank you Elizabeth for sharing these words and being – always – compassionate enough to look beyond your own experiences to those of others. There is absolutely nothing racist about this post. Anyone looking at this as such – is just unwilling to acknowledge the inconvenient truth of systemic racism that has and still pervades our society. We change things by recognizing problems and working to overcome them – not pretending they do not exist. Do not ever allow allow your voice to be quieted.

    • Avatar
      Montoya May 14, 2019 at 9:51 am #

      ^^ Yes to everything here. Folks tired of hearing about white privilege should become a part of the group to help change it. Denying that it exists is what makes “racism worse.”

  3. Avatar
    Tracy May 14, 2019 at 8:28 am #

    Why are we so fragile that we can’t acknowledge that racism exists and we benefit from the color of our skin? We should be raising kids that are aware and empathetic to what others face. As she said, there are things I have never had to consider with my kids and if my friends weren’t willing to talk about with me, I still wouldn’t be aware. Maybe the first step to stopping racism is listening and no longer dismissing what others experience and feel.

  4. Avatar
    Paul Bennett May 14, 2019 at 8:53 am #

    Thank you for sharing your learning and growth with us! Being white and admitting that privilege exists is an important step (as you can see from the deniers who freak out against the idea of white privilege). Facing up to the reality of systemic racism doesn’t mean someone feels bad about their skin color (as another comment claims stupidly). It’s about realizing that the color of your skin has given you a protected place in society.

    Anyone resisting this article needs to read it again and again and again, and then use the resources the author gives you, and then OPEN YOUR MIND and start LEARNING.

    Admitting to white privilege doesn’t diminish you. It doesn’t mean you hate being white. It means that you admit that the rules of the game are in your favor, and maybe–just maybe–it means admitting that you have to learn.

    Thank you for sharing! I hope people listen and learn! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Peggy May 14, 2019 at 11:55 am #

      Someone obviously isn’t a Mom on here.

      Please OPEN YOUR MIND and start LEARNING what it’s like to be barefoot and pregnant.

  5. Avatar
    Jennifer Key May 14, 2019 at 9:15 am #

    I too recognize my white privilege. It doesn’t mean that I am ashamed of being white, it means that I have experienced many of the things you talked about. I think it also makes me want to hear the stories of and from people who don’t look like me. Thank you for being open to the dialogue that this will generate.

  6. Avatar
    Amanda May 14, 2019 at 9:48 am #

    I would be interested in knowing what privileges you get because you are white.

    To me the fact that you are telling your white kids to look at other races like they are at a disadvantage is basically teaching them they are superior because they are white.

    Honestly, everyone is equal and prejudice isn’t just against black people. There are so many people that get mistreated regardless of their race. How about put yourself in everyone’s shoes.

    • Avatar
      Samantha May 14, 2019 at 11:04 am #

      I tried putting myself in everyone’s shoes and not only did they not fit but now I have athlete’s foot.

      And I am not even a better athlete for it…

  7. Avatar
    Montoya May 14, 2019 at 9:55 am #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — Elizabeth, you are a true wordsmith. Thank you for being open and vulnerable enough to not only recognize the issue but try to educate others. It’s not just about our feelings as adults but about making sure our kids grow up in a better, more equitable racial climate. There is so much work that needs to be done and it starts here. Thank you again for sharing.

  8. Avatar
    Robin May 14, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    White privileged? I just spent 20 minutes in a tanning bed trying to get my skin darker. Please tell me more about how good it is to be white.

  9. Avatar
    Tanya May 14, 2019 at 6:41 pm #

    What a wonderful article. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    Some things we face in life are based on the color of our skin. Others may be based on our socio-economic status. Good on you for acknowledging feelings you have suppressed in the past. Dialogue is never a bad thing. The problem is, we have become a society that can no longer agree to disagree, rather we go to extremes, name call, and decide no one else is entitled to a differing opinion.

    Thank you again for sharing and being vulnerable.

  10. Avatar
    Stacy May 14, 2019 at 8:16 pm #

    It takes courage to speak from your heart. To make changes that positively impact this planet.

  11. Avatar
    Candi May 15, 2019 at 10:57 am #

    Elizabeth, I sincerely thank you for being brave enough to speak truth. Until we all begin to speak out against systemic racism things are not going to get any better in our society. I applaud both your vulnerability and transparency. This blog is heartfelt, thoughtful and packed with valuable resources for all who are willing to make a personal investment.

  12. Avatar
    Katie May 18, 2019 at 6:14 pm #

    The obtuse responses here say so much about how far we have to go. Ladies please travel outside of your suburban neighborhoods. Get a passport and get a bigger view.

    Thanks Elizabeth for putting it out there. You know what they say? Haters gonna hate.

  13. Avatar
    Krystal May 18, 2019 at 11:05 pm #

    Elizabeth,
    Thank you for your bravery, truth, and willingness to seek first to understand. A recent episode of Unites Shades of America showed people who share your same vision and understanding. At the end of the episode the host W. Kamu Bell told the groups “thank you for using your privilege to stand up for others.” If no one has thanked you yet, THANK YOU!
    Sincerely,
    A Mother of 3 Black Boys

  14. Avatar
    Natalie May 22, 2019 at 10:12 pm #

    Please go to http://www.overcomeracism.com. We just finished this two day training at our workplace and it was beyond eye opening. Systemic racism goes all the way back to the early 1600s in America. There are laws built to assist racism which develops our racist thoughts and beliefs. Yea i am white, i have privilege and it’s a social construct that i do. We have to tear down that system of whiteness and reconstruct our societal thinking. The white people getting defensive need to look at this website and step out of the comfort zone.

  15. Avatar
    Labree May 23, 2019 at 1:51 pm #

    Another white woman so ashamed of her white guilt she has to write a post using her white privilege guilt to gain likes and acknowledgment! Hypocrisy!

  16. Avatar
    Mariana Coudrain May 23, 2019 at 3:11 pm #

    Elizabeth, first and foremost, I am a naturalized citizen born in Mexico. I grew up here in the US, in Sugar Land, specifically and in middle school, I was naturalized. I moved to New Orleans 10 years ago here is where I proceeded to experience some of the most racist moments of my life.

    I will be honest and say that I may not look like your “typical” Hispanic person but, the truth was that my last name was Gomez and people automatically made judgments based on my last name, without even meeting me or getting to know me. I have followed New Orleans Moms Blog for the last 5 years and some posts I relate to and there are others seem pretty distant to my life. I am not sure which contributor for the New Orleans Moms Blog shared your post but I am very grateful for this because, since I have lived here I have received a true education on what it feels like to be discriminated against and how small imperceptible comments can affect how you view people around you. New Orleans seems to be one of those places that categorize Hispanic people into three groups, laborers, janitorial crews, or people who commit crimes and need to be deported. In addition to all those grave generalizations and misconceptions, my children who are white and Hispanic seem to feel a certain shame associated with being Hispanic. This hurts me the most.

    A quick anecdote, my daughter who was 7 at the time, corrected a co-worker of mine who said I was Mexican. She said very sternly “NO my mom is from Sugar Land, Texas.” Before I even had a chance to reply that co-worker told her “That is what she tells all your private school friends and their parents so that they let you play with them.” I know he was trying to make a joke but, that stuck with my little human who absorbed the knowledge immediately that she would not be accepted if she was anything but white. After this, I made a concerted effort to try to teach her some of the wonderful things about Mexico and I quickly hated myself more for not teaching her Spanish and understanding how rich and wonderful our culture was.

    So to get back to your blog, thank you for accepting that there are gaps in our culture, even though we are probably living in the most immersed era of our country’s history. It takes so much courage to say, there are some things that I do and say that are not consistent with the person I want to be, and more importantly, who I want my children to grew up to be. I myself can think of several occasions when I concluded, incorrectly, that one of my white friends made certain assumptions about me … so as you can see it also works in reverse. Some minorities (I am guilty of this) are always on guard and think the worst instead of hoping for the best. I just want to tell you that speaking your truth isn’t easy; however, your post has reminded me that every day I need to wake up and say I am going to try to be the best version of myself and give humanity a chance to prove to me that they are the best versions of themselves. Kindness and respect are the only way that we will grow as humans. We all deserve a chance to say I am making mistakes but I am trying to rectify them and raise the most wonderful humans I know how to raise.

    Thank you for your VERY BRAVE POST. YOU ARE A QUEEN!

  17. Avatar
    Amber May 25, 2019 at 7:30 am #

    Thank you for this honest post and the list of resources. I can’t wait to explore them! It is incredibly refreshing to read such an important and timely post on race and white privilege in a mom’s blog. Thank you for helping all of us moms raise a generation that will do better.

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