Dear White People, Your Racial Bias Is Destroying America
Politics

Dear White People, Your Racial Bias Is Destroying America

Ignorance lies in the heart of small towns, cloaked in whiteness and family traditions.

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Here's the thing… I don't like change. No, scratch that.

Change is good. It's often profound and necessary, even if it's uncomfortable at times.

What I hate are transitions: the movements from one frame of mind or life to another.

Our country is in transition. Nothing has really changed, and I think that is the problem.

It is so easy to blame today's racism on the Trump administration, launching more hatred on top of what already exists. However, while he's most certainly not my favorite president, he didn't create what is here.

He revealed it.

He appealed to a side of people that was often kept behind closed doors, which eventually emboldened people.

I watched a documentary on Netflix called "White Right: Meeting the Enemy." I watched it in an attempt to understand the other side. Having grown up in an all-white town and fairly racist community, I wanted to learn what truly draws people into white supremacy and extremism.

The documentary follows Emmy Award-winning Filmmaker, Deeyah Khan, a Muslim woman who follows different extremist groups to try to find the humanity in them.

And I was amazed to find that while the people in the documentary had some pretty scary ideas, they were kind to Deeyah and even began to change some of their own views based on their interactions with her. Some of them even stated that they'd never really met a Muslim or interacted with one.

Others declared that they fell into extremism because they had rough childhoods. It provided a sense of belonging, and it gave them power and control.

The overall message I got was that conversations need to be had, especially in areas without any diversity at all.

I grew up in a small farm town with zero diversity. I went to an all-white school, attended an all-white church and had no interactions with anyone outside my race for most of my childhood. We had a few children come to school who were adopted and of different races, but it still didn't provide much cultural diversity.

The first experience I had with a person of color was in college. And it was different. All I knew of African Americans was what I had seen portrayed on TV.

My parents always taught me that all people are the same and have the same value, no matter what they look like. But having grown up in a place where everyone looked just like me, it was hard to really understand the value in those lessons.

Thankfully, I attended an extremely diverse college and was able to make friends with lots of people from different cultures and backgrounds. I learned so much about the world through those friendships.

The summer after college, I began dating a Muslim man from Dubai. Bandar was brilliant and kind, easily the sweetest guy I had ever been with up until that point. But everywhere we went, people would stare at us and whisper. People would get annoyed with his accent, and my own friends made cruel jokes about me being a sister wife.

All my life I knew that racism existed, but I never saw it and certainly never felt it.

It was a tough experience, one that my 22-year-old self-wasn't really prepared for. I still can't wrap my brain around people's responses to someone I held in such a high regard — and still do.

Cut to 2017. I received a wedding invitation from a friend back home. At the time, I did not have a boyfriend but had briefly started seeing someone local. When I thought I might take him to the wedding, I RSVP'd for the two of us and sent the invitation back. My friend later reached out to check and see if he was white or black – as it would dictate where we would be seated.

It occurred to me that bringing home a man of color might raise a few eyebrows to my small farm town, but I didn't think it would actually be bothersome on a level that would change an entire seating chart.

Due to his work schedule, he couldn't attend the wedding – which I think was probably for the better.

While at the reception, I found my assigned table and sat down. After a little while, a woman across from me asked me "what kind of black man" I was dating (having apparently been informed a black man would be in her presence). What "kind"? Another young lady interrupted and stated she was asking if he was a thug. Immediately, I was frustrated and wanted to get defensive.

The question was absolutely preposterous. Was I supposed to let her know that he was a college-educated state police officer with a house and a nice truck, or should I have told her he was a thug just to see her reaction? The fact that people feel bold enough to ask these questions amazes me.

The world is full of ignorance. That's what it comes down to.

Just like me, people grow up in all-white communities and live their lives full of assumptions, never having interactions with other cultures or races.

This is exactly how bias is created. The media dictates who they interview after big events, what makes the news and how that story is portrayed. And it's almost always negative to black culture.

Bias kills unarmed black men and women.

It's that gut-wrenching fear that all black people are armed and dangerous. It's the desire to second-guess every black person that walks near you. It's the urge to lock your car doors when a black man walks by. It's what emboldens people to call the police on people of color for things like standing in a coffee shop.

Bias tells you that black people are dangerous.

What is even scarier about bias is that it is often implicit. It is so deeply ingrained that people often don't even know that they have it.

It comes out with even simple things, like showing surprise when you see a well-educated person of color – as if they can't achieve something like an education.

The only way to combat these underlying prejudices is to start talking.

Ignorance lies in the heart of small towns, cloaked in whiteness and family traditions.

Racial jokes become the thing you pass down to your grandchildren, as you're out on the tractor together.

People can only fear what they do not know.

In this day and age, staying quiet only makes things worse. Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. It teaches people that you think it's OK.

But let me say it for you: It's NOT OK.

None of this is OK.

We cannot live like this. I do not want more children to grow up this way.

If anything is going to change, it's going to have to start with YOU.

At some point, we have to stop arguing over All Lives Matter and understand that if that were really true, we'd all be working to make things right in this country. All of us.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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