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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Listen and Atone: A Message for White People

Even if you have never knowingly done something to hurt another person.

Even if you consider yourself "color blind."

Even if you live in an enclave of peace and harmony.

Even if you don't know any people of another race, so how could you be guilty of offending or hurting?

Even if you have lived a life of groveling in the mud and have worked for every dime you've ever had.

Even if the whole notion of "white privilege" strikes you as ignorant of your pain and suffering to merely survive.

Even then, please listen.

 

"But, but, but . . ." you protest.

 

All I'm whispering is, "Listen." What will it cost you?

 

Think of a time you were hurt—maybe as a vulnerable child—and nobody heard your screams. Or maybe they did hear, but they didn't help or they actually made you hurt more.

 

Think of a time life was unfair. You did everything right, but still you were rejected, tossed out.

 

Now think of our history: Europeans landed on an inhabited land where they were welcomed. In response, they committed brutal sustained genocide, stole land, stole children, put Natives in virtual concentration camps—

 

"But I didn't do that," you protest.

 

Please, I'm pleading with you. Listen.

 

These settlers built an economy based on free labor. Human beings were sold by African warlords because they saw white man's money and wanted it. These people were ripped from their families, shackled and packed like sardines, shipped across the ocean, raped, brutalized, tortured, murdered. Even after the slave trade was declared illegal, it continued. White people declared that other humans were not human, purveying it as a spiritual truth, because it justified what they knew in their deepest hearts was immoral. They defended it, and therefore their economy and right to a certain life style, by turning against their own government, flying their own flag, and fighting a war. Which they lost.

 

But still the abuse continued. By now it was woven into the culture. Our DNA.

 

"But I've never—"

 

Hush. I'm begging.

 

Trauma affects the DNA. For centuries we have inherited a legacy of internalized civil war. Black people live with internalized racism. White people live with internalized guilt, and therefore fear of ever being exposed. This is deep down in some manner in all of us. And for white people to feel guilt and therefore fear and therefore a need to justify, to defend, to deny any attachment to our shared history, to declare themselves absolved of something their ancestors may have done is a form of delusion based on fear of retribution. And everyone pays a price for delusion.

 

Please listen. Can you hear your conscience crying? Even if you were not born 400 years ago and have never participated in discrimination. Even, even, even . . .

 

If you know hurt, follow it down into your gut. Hear your own crying. Now hear the crying of others. Just hearing it mandates atonement.

 

But first you have to listen.

 

 

For a simple animation explaining systemic racism, click here.

 

I just finished Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a YA edition of a much longer work by Ibram X. Kendi, adapted by Jason Reynolds. This book is recommended for readers age 12 and up, but at 69, I'm grateful to have read it. I learned the real meaning of Prison Industrial Complex and plenty of other phrases. I got the education I've been needing and in the privacy of my couch, got to feel mortified by past gaffs. That mortification, I believe, is necessary for transformation. I've never made a huge emotional transformation without feeling some level of it, whether it's humiliation, remorse, or regret. Let the mortification continue. I want to be a true antiracist in every cell of my being. Here is a Publishers Weekly review of the book.

 

And in my continuing education, I've read White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. I highly recommend it.

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