I often find myself talking about, or initiating conversations regarding race because I so often find that I don’t have the luxury of ignoring that part of my existence. Whiteness is considered a type of default state.
Overall, I was genuinely surprised that white people didn’t discuss their whiteness in-depth.
I learned what my race truly meant and how it affected me when I was eight years old. I was at a summer camp and was one of only five black people in the whole camp — two of the other four black kids were my siblings.
Our counselor asked us 'what are people afraid of?' During the flurry of answers, one brave white child said 'African people!'
Being not only black, but black African, I used to get upset at that memory; she was obviously reprimanded, but now that I think about it...
She wasn't wrong. At all.
As I look back on the times I have talked about race and whiteness with white people, but now that I look back on it, most of those scenarios deal with said white person mocking their whiteness or proclaiming how ‘white’ or ‘not white’ they were.
Are white people not actually discussing the history, implications, or privileges surrounding their whiteness unless forced to?
Talking about whiteness doesn’t mean that you’re a white supremacist (unless you really are). It’s important for everyone to acknowledge their own personal history and identity. White people are often uncomfortable when others talk about their whiteness because they themselves haven’t reconciled with the horrors that helped them get that identity established.
Every person of color exists with a keen awareness of how their race plays a part in their everyday interactions. Whether it be receiving a good or service, interviewing for a job, or existing in public places after dark, being not (visibly) white is a serious danger faced by many people day to day.
The problem lies when those that have the power to end systematic prejudice are choosing not to acknowledge their own privilege.
Solution? White people need to talk.
There's no way that we can unpack and reconcile race if no one is talking about it. White people need to do the task they are so often exempt from and analyze how their race plays into that narrative.