Whoa! What a woke white woman! She said what now? I’d like to have a conversation with her — so sure that there is quite a unique mind there, the kind that most humans desperately lack.
I’m an African-American, albeit a very light-skinned one. I always put that qualifier in because no doubt skin color influences what kind of relationship an African-American will have with racism in America. I often say if myself I was born on the color line, which is to say light enough to have some pretty deep in into exposure to white people and white experiences and yet also, by nature of birth and connection to family, thoroughly rooted in a typical Black American experience.
I often, then, found white people’s perceptions about racism perplexing because it’s extraordinarily different than black peoples perceptions. To me, whites fall into one of two categories: blatantly and unapologetically racist (but at least honest) or extraordinarily uncomfortable with the reality of racism, which leads to a corrosive dishonesty about it that does not permit them to effectively discuss it directly. Like they know it’s there, always…but they don’t want to acknowledge it in anyway. God forbid you want to have a discussion about it, that is to be evaded at all costs. I could never, (and I still don’t really) understand why whites usually find real discussions about racism so threatening, but I want to understand it.
Al least that’s the way discussions about racism were when I was coming up. Racist whites were really very brutally honest about it, but most whites just wanted to pretend like it just did not exist. That was just nuts to me!
Now, things are a little different because everyone one is so “swirly.” Which is to say multiracial/multicultural. That’s an entirely different conversation. One which you probably are far more adept at having than I, and I am sure that now you are able to have all sorts of informed conversations about racism in America due to your own experiences with this.
But I want to go back to 30 years ago, back to your teacher. Wow. What a fascinating person! You have this white woman, not being pressured at all to own it — and she’s all like yeah, racism, in this song right here. I’m not going to participate. Like 30 years ago! Wow.
Why take a stand on this when there was really no need? I mean if she was teaching in the inner-city, to children of color, yeah, I could totally understand her opposition to the song. But like you said, everyone was white, singing the French song, there was no dire need, arguably, to be honest about the fact that Jesus wasn’t really white.
And then there’s you, who picks up on her integrity and instead of the typical white resistance, instead of digging in with “but of course Jesus is white! Everyone knows that!” You come back with, “what’s this? Tell me more .” You actually allowed the subtle racism that existed all around you to be challenged.
Unicorn one and unicorn two. You’re both glitchy. You both rejected a tremendous amount of subtle programming around racism, and created your own thoughts about it, thoughts that typically are not permitted to be entertained.
Why do you think that is? Why do you think the teacher was willing to challenge deeply institutionalized racism, even when there was no particular need to do so? Why did you allow yourself to be challenged? Did you want to resist what she was saying to you about racism? It seems you did, because, you challenged her back a bit, but then when she gave you a satisfactory answer, you seemed to allow yourself to be challenged and even continued challenging yourself, when, let’s be honest. It would be so much easier to not allow oneself to be challenged in this way. I look at pictures of your family and I think, she decided to pursue a challenging life, at least with regard to racial identity.
So I wonder, why you did it. And are you happy that you did? Why do you think that so many people, of any race, are unable to challenge the pervasive programming of racism like you and your teacher? And having done so, was it worth it?