After all the current events in the US I felt compelled to put this out. I am not only ashamed of my country, but I am ashamed of my white. I am ashamed that this is what we have become as a country and I am forever and deeply sorry for what colonial culture has done. It is a burden that I have to bare genetically and I want to be part of the change.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
We had a Confederate flag as a window curtain, or as my family called it, “ The Rebel Flag”. Every time someone rode past our house, perched up on that hill, nestled away on that dusty, red-clay cutoff in backwoods Georgia, you could observe our family crest of racism suspended in the window; our rebel yell! The flag didn’t represent my momma’s heritage, she was a Californian; more wild wild west than Nazi. But, we became part of the “poor whites” as soon as we got off that Greyhound bus in Georgia when I was five. We weren’t quite good enough for society because we were poor but we were better than those negroes.
Many years later, we would settle into that 200-year-old house on Riden Cut Off with my mom’s new husband. It made noises and the large split log walls were rodent and termite ridden. There were trailer parks and duplexes before here but I was too young to really remember. So, this story starts in this house. The house I remember the most. The house where my memory began to establish itself in my growth surrounded by unwavering prejudice.
My Friend, That “Nigger” Lady
The “curtain” was Bulo’s, my stepfather, and he sported that redneck and beer gut proud. Moonshine and Budweiser were the culprits of the tomato face and they would later kill him at the ripe old age of 38. He was verbally abusive, funny and a drunk — he is the only person I know that proudly received a DUI on a horse — oh, and boy was he racist, if I didn’t mention that. Needless to say, racism was still strong in the late 80s early 90s in Georgia; like a pot set to simmer from the 1600s, it was aromatic, you could smell it, it just wasn’t bubbling over.
I can still hear Bulo yelling at me, “Why you spending all that time at that Nigger Lady’s house?”
Tears rolling down my face as I would defend my friend, “SHE AIN’T NO NIGGER! SHE IS MY FRIEND!”
I was maybe 11, naturally opposing discrimination and defending what I felt was morally right, spanking or not. What does one know at the age of 11? Less than they do at one, I truly believe. I see it in children’s eyes, the lights to the universe dimming with every passing year.
(As my dad used to say, “The only way to get dumber is to get bigger, kid.” As an adult, I would respond, “Than you must be a dumb mother-fucker.” — He was 6ft and over 200lbs and racist, but he wouldn’t admit it.)
There was an old black lady that lived deep in the woods by that house. I would take off in the mornings and walk to go see her from time to time. She still gathered water from the well outside and had a wood burning stove in the middle of the living room. She would use cardboard as insulation for her walls in the winter. She shared old timer stories with me while I sat and fidgeted with whatever was close and we would bond over laughter. She was magical to a young white kid raised to think that black people were different. She didn’t seem different to me, just more colorful.
I remember playing in those forest and cotton speckled pastures with my black lab, Toby, dodging cow patties and trying to pop squirrels with rocks. There was a building on the trail to her house — small, rickety, and filled with burlap bags. A friend and I went nosing around one day and started opening them. They were full of papers and at the time, we had not one clue what they represented. I kept a couple and stuck them in my pocket and we played “school” or “office” with the rest, destroying any sort of organization.
Later, I let my mom see one and she told me it was an old deed to a local property and asked where I had gotten it. I didn’t tell her, just said I found it in the woods and that was the end of the conversation. The only problem was, the names on the papers were not the people that allegedly “owned “ the large amount of property in the area, the Ridens, they were in the names of the black families that lived in the community. I mean, there were sacks and sacks of them. Personally, it felt curious that they would keep important papers in such a weird place. I was a sleuth, a personal private eye on an in-depth investigation and I wanted to know what they were and who these names belonged to.
I passed a few days later after we had disorganized the shed, heading to my lady’s house, to find the bags gone and the building boarded up. Soon after, it would be burnt down. It just kept getting more peculiar but what does one know at 11? I felt I needed to discuss this with her and that I had made a discovery. When I arrived, there was a denseness to the air, I could feel something wasn’t right. Plus, there was a car out front. She didn’t have a car and I had never seen one either. I softly tipped-toed up to the house, trying to sneak and see who was there. A tall, thin, dark-skinned lady walked out, startling me. She had a strong look on her face.
“What’choo you doin’ her,” she thundered in her thick southern drawl.
Although I was quite frightened, I was not a timid child and I responded as so,
“I’m looking for my friend!” I thundered back. “She lives here and I want to talk to her. Who are you?”
“I’m her daughter, dahlin’,” calming her tone. “We had to move her to Atlanta where we live. She done gotten sick and we gonna have to take care of her there.”
And that was that; case closed. I was extremely distraught. I mentioned it to my mom and she informed me that the local hunting crew, who I associated with the Riden family, had put dead cats and other animal parts in the well, poisoning the water. How horrible!! I was devastated and angry, to say the least. They were, or had been trying to get rid of that lady for years I later found out. Nevertheless, I strongly feel that my innocent child’s play, which led to me finding those papers, was the driving force that created the whole heinous eviction process. Whether that is true, I am not sure, but I am convinced to this day it was and the truth was never made public because she was black. This situation affected me severely as a youth and it is when I got my first dose of white privilege, although I didn’t know what that term was then.
Over the following years, I would continue to live in the south. My dad, in North Carolina, and my mom, in Georgia, were split and I moved between them depending on which way the argument would go. I mostly lived with my mom and a short time with my grandmother – my father’s mom – from ages 7 to 9. My dad’s side of the family was relentless when the subject of dating blacks was brought up. They much rather I be gay than do THAT! Oh, the hypocrisy of it all. I didn’t understand why any of this was an issue in the first place.
Command Sgt. Major Racist
At 9, my grandmother met a man named Jim who I grew to be very fond of. He treated me better than anyone ever had; he didn’t talk down to me, he bought me nice clothes and he would bring my grandmother to come to see me when I had to stay with my mom in Georgia. However, he was as racist a man as I had ever met. The flagpole in his front yard stood strong with the U.S. flag and tucked below was that Confederate flag; that ole’ southern “REBEL YELL”.
He was from Valdosta, Georgia originally and his grandfather was active in the KKK when he was growing up. Nobody ever bothered him although he was very open about how he felt about people of color, all of them. He was a war hero and retired Command Sergeant Major of the Special Forces and was not a “fuck around with” type of man. One thing I did respect about him though, he was able to have a debatable conversation about politics, race, religion and walk away shaking hands no matter how heated it would get.
He and I disagreed on many things but we loved each other and that was enough for us. However, this did not change the fact that he was blatantly racist and it breaks my heart to this day.
He and I were at the Grocery store and my friend Trey, whom I adored, walked over to say hey to me in the parking lot, engaging in a hug. Jim snatched my arm, pulling me out of the embrace, “Get away from my granddaughter nigger!”
This was the mid-90s; I was petrified! I didn’t know what to say, I just kept apologizing through the tears welling up in my eyes. I think at this point I realized how racist he was and I found it extremely unacceptable, I just wasn’t sure what to do about it. We didn’t talk for days. I was older and I may have been a little racist, but not THAT racist.
He’d be turning in his grave if he knew that I am on a mountain in Central America with my Latino fiance. My grandmother expressed to me that “they better not get any browner” — my boyfriends — She would express this when I brought home my last one, who was Puerto Rican — she didn’t even know that Puerto Rico was part of the U.S. Hell, I didn’t either until I was 32.
My grandmother and I have chosen not to discuss these topics. I love her immensely and cannot deal with any other feeling toward her. I do feel I had a softening effect over the years and they both would respect the fact that I was not racist, or so I thought. As I got older, I would socially adjust my racism. I could, I carried my white privilege.
Breaking Ground in NYC
It wasn’t until I moved to NYC in 2010 that I started realizing how racist I was. Racism is racism as a sin is a sin; there aren’t levels of racism and all sins are equal. But as society does, it creates acceptance levels depending on privilege
Now living in NYC, I was snowflake and white girl. I could feel the color attacking me and my white privilege. I saw myself turning into a person that wasn’t racist because they had a couple black and Latino friends but would tell racist jokes with my white friends purposefully using the “N” word and calling latinos spicks and beaners for shock value. I would wear my “rebel flag” shirt through the black neighborhoods in Brooklyn saying “It’s heritage, not hate” and thinking, “Why can’t we use the “N” word if they can?”; luckily I never got my ass kicked.
Today I feel that no one should use this deprecatory term when representing the fight for Civil Rights, but who am I but privileged and white. I definitely knew less at 30 than at 11. It was real back then, the feeling of knowing right from wrong without being taught; at 30 it was just part of the program. And that is what NYC taught me, I needed to reprogram.
I surrounded myself with all colors of people and got through the colossal culture shock, which I embraced and appreciated. My mind was narrow and it needed a stent. I never felt privileged; I mean, I was poor growing up. However, my 11-year-old self had been hibernating the whole time and began navigating me once I shed my white privilege ego; listening to those around me instead of trying to justify my colonial mindset. Moreover, as I was being enlightened, I was taking in all this direct and indirect reprogramming like a child, wide-eyed and inquisitive. I felt like my friend had returned to help me and was sharing spiritual insights as I fidgeted out my confusion. I was feeling more privileged about the fact that the real ignorance was crumbling around me and allowing the wounds of thousands of years of oppression teach me my lesson, without rebuttal. I remember when I realized the truth fully and how sad and hurt I was that this was my life. I felt it on a cellular level that I had been lied to my whole life by everyone I had looked up to and that I loved and trusted. I found myself in a landslide of emotions as I accepted I was racist too.
“How can you create distance with a memory that you are not even conscious of, something that throbs in every cell in your body?” Sadhguru
Accepting The Truth
There is no book to teach it and society accepts it as a norm; growing up I didn’t have a clue what white privilege was; we aren’t taught to know what it is. I believe that while omitting white privilege, the system instills tidbits of inequality factors, which are forged into our subconscious. Teaching diversity in schools has no war profit and neither does teaching kids to think for themselves. At a very young age, we are learning and absorbing information rapidly but we also possess a knowledgeable, pure ignorance to the world, reacting off of how we feel in the moment because we don’t know any other way; like, little Mystics. This is when they start to program us instead of letting us influence ourselves, building off of our creativity; it’s Nurture vs Nature. If we just let nature do her job, we would be ok. However, Big Brother has his own ideas.
“Yet while the term can be used to silence, that’s more the fault of a rude terminology-wielder than of the concept itself. All sorts of formerly harmless words have been deployed to guilt people and suppress speech — “unpatriotic” and “elitist” come to mind. A reminder to acknowledge one’s privilege is just a reminder to be aware — aware that you might not be able to fully understand someone else’s experiences, or that the assumptions you were brought up with may be blinding you to certain concerns. That awareness that is key to any sort of civil discussion, about race, class or anything else.”
The truth is, the system wants us to be separated and segregated and to think we are bleeding differently. It wants us to believe one person needs more air than the other. It wants us to hate each other because loving each other leaves nothing to oppress.
But, hold on, they even go so deep as to make us love ourselves less — these enemies of the human race — through advertisements and political propaganda. It’s way deeper than skin color.
They know without self love there is no love and they use these tactics against us, purposefully, to make us war within ourselves; Divida et Impera!.
“The greatest weapon that the colonial powers have used in the past against our people has always been divide-and-conquer. America is a colonial power. She has colonized 22 million Afro-Americans by depriving us of first-class citizenship, by depriving us of civil rights, actually by depriving us of human rights. She has not only deprived us of the right to be a citizen, she has deprived us of the right to be a human being, the right to be recognized and respected as men and women.” — Malcolm X, Palm Gardens, New York. 8 April 1964.
Ross Gay explains it in his personal essay, Some Thoughts on Mercy, as, “…moments of potential connection are fraught with suspicion and all that comes with it: fear, anger, paralysis, disappointment, despair. We all think the worst of each other and ourselves, and become our worst selves.” — read the essay, its great.
Now, my family calls me a snowflake, because they label me a liberal. And that is OK, but I don’t identify with labeling good morals with political jargon. Through study and debate and being morally equipped, I have come to accept that my ancestral DNA has some serious fucking karma to sort out. This also taught me to understand and compassionately deal with the indirect anger that is sometimes projected toward my whiteness, rather than me being in denial — Standing Rock taught me a lot about this.
Furthermore, it has helped me recognize that although less privileged growing up, that I was mighty privileged — mighty white, as they phrase it. I see now the mismanagement of my morals and how this privilege was part of the programming. As a feral street youth, it protected me against much harassment from the police. But, as an adult, it had created ignorance followed by shame. And although I am still opening up and accepting responsibility for my DNA’s karma, I want to send a shout out to the ancestors how sorry I am for all those Mayflowers dropping Plymouth Rock bombs on human rights, accompanied by the millions of other crimes against humanity by the colonial powers that be: justice, judge and jury.
With that being said, I know I am white. I also know that I am more likely to get a job than a person of color, not get harassed by the police, or less likely to get shot for wearing hoodies. Is that my fault? No! Is it ridiculous? Obviously! Nonetheless, I can only take responsibility for MY actions and how I bring about change. I cannot and will not be held responsible for those of others. It’s a hard burden to bare to somehow feel indirectly responsible for the actions of slave owners and genocidal colonials that spread gentrification, murdering and enslaving indigenous people globally — which they are still doing for water, gold, oil and wood; seriously, we are running out of trees people! And at the Borders of the US they have created concentration camps for children of Latin American countries.
The only way to get rid of anything is to acknowledge its existence. Sadly, I have to admit that our whole country is in denial– the white part especially because most don’t realize that by not acknowledging their white privilege, they are promoting a type of anti semitism against all people of color, which is bred into the very core of our white upbringing. I also have to acknowledge, painfully, that being white has everything to do with the fact that I was racist. I am not looking for pitty or praise, I want to fix this and I want to share my knowledge without being ridiculed for trying to do the right thing because everybody is angry and won’t listen; this is me rebelling against fascism. My Rebel Yell of acknowlegment against white privledge.
Just like I was ignorant and didn’t understand, anger deafens and halts progress; ignorance and anger combined do not create momentum. We all need to quiet down the hate and be more compassionate with one another.
These are touchy subjects and people should not assume that everyone understands the depth of them. There is the way each race interprets it and then the actual meaning and depth of the definition and how it is unbiasedly applied to current events. It is truly hard for people to accept that everything they have ever ben taught is a fucking lie! It can be suicidal!
We need to pay attention to where the progress is within all this uprising and unite in it and nurture its truth. We are all on the same earth and we need to focus on what’s good for it and every living thing on it. It is the only home we have and we are all we have. I truly believe that no matter our “bloodline” or skin tone, we all bleed red and we are all made of the same star stuff and that makes us family!
I was looking up the definition of gentrification, which I do know, but I wanted to see what the dictionary said. With the definition is a note that says, “This word is now sometimes used in a disapproving way, but was originally considered positive.”
I don’t think so, it depends on which side of the 6(9) you are on. It is never good for those that are in the losing end. Whoever wrote that, I feel, is genuinely ignorant to the fact that they suffer from white privilege syndrome. Yes, WPS is a thing and it is what happens when you are not taught throughout your life, by actual living the experience ,what white privilege is, to the point it is not even a thing. This person is now a innocent bystander of DNA bread racism. I know this because I was this person. I lived the experience of the person devoid of the knowledge of this type of injustice to human rights. White privilege was not an actual topic of conversation EVER!