How nice it would be if white Americans would exercise a similar restraint when it comes to the topic of racism and discrimination in America. To wit, a just-released poll from CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation, which finds that white Americans are far less likely than persons of color to believe that racism remains a serious problem in the U.
Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms. I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates our experiences. You can see their eyes shut down and harden.
This emotional disconnect is the conclusion of living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is norm and all others deviate from it.
They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universalised. The journey towards understanding structural racism still requires people of colour to prioritise white feelings.
Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation.
Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Watching The Color of Fear by Lee Mun Wah, I saw people of colour break down in tears as they struggled to convince a defiant white man that his words were enforcing and perpetuating a white racist standard on them.
All the while he stared obliviously, completely confused by this pain, at best trivialising it, at worst ridiculing it. Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others? Worse still is the white person who might be willing to entertain the possibility of said racism, but still thinks we enter this conversation as equals.
Not to mention that entering into conversation with defiant white people is a frankly dangerous task for me. As the heckles rise and the defiance grows, I have to tread incredibly carefully, because if I express frustration, anger, or exasperation at their refusal to understand, they will tap into their pre-subscribed racist tropes about angry black people who are a threat to them and their safety.
Trying to engage with them and navigate their racism is not worth that.
Amidst every conversation about Nice White People feeling silenced by conversations about race, there is a sort of ironic and glaring lack of understanding or empathy for those of us who have been visibly marked out as different for our entire lives, and live the consequences.
I cannot continue to emotionally exhaust myself trying to get this message across, whilst also toeing a very precarious line that tries not to implicate any one white person in their role of perpetuating structural racism, lest they character assassinate me. The balance is too far swung in their favour.
Their intent is often not to listen or learn, but to exert their power, to prove me wrong, to emotionally drain me, and to rebalance the status quo.Racism still exists and as a country we can work together to end this growing trend of discrimination in America.
If we fight as vigorously as activists did, I believe racism will somehow come to a halt and our nation will finally be free at last.
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