Translation: How liberalism poisoned my racial identity
To reach Regina Brett:
firstname.lastname@example.org, 216-999-6328 (Skype)
I discovered I'm in racial awareness kindergarten. Maybe even pre-K. That's why I'll be watching the two-part CNN presentation beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday called "Black in America."
In the diversity class, we read, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" In our discussions I learned that privilege is what I don't notice because I don't have to.
I always mistook racism as those systems and practices that hurt and excluded blacks, not that advanced whites like me.
While I don't see myself as racist, I've benefited from racism by default - through education, justice, political and health care systems that for decades have favored white people.
The class challenged me to challenge those systems, to walk the other way on the conveyor belt of life. Too often I let the conveyor carry me along. I've been oblivious to the black people struggling to get on or pointing out when we white folks are heading the wrong way.
To be honest, I want to live in a colorblind world. I want race to simply not matter anymore.
But as one black woman in class pointed out, "If you don't see that I'm black, you don't see me."
We sat in a big circle at a local college talking about "white privilege."
I confessed that I never felt privileged being white. My dad was a sheet-metal worker trying to raise 11 kids in a house by the railroad tracks between a furniture factory and a ball bearing plant.
After I shared my story, a black woman pointed out how much harder that same life would have been had my parents been black.
Her comment bothered me, but she was right.
Rarely am I conscious of my whiteness. I never claim my race as my identity. I see myself as a woman, not a white woman.
I grew up on "The Little Rascals" and thought it was cool that Spanky, Alfalfa and Darla had friends like Buckwheat, Stymie and Farina. I didn't have any black friends to explain some of the racial overtones.
I grew up in a white world. There was only one black family in my grade school and none in any of my classes for eight years.