Plenty of my attributes are difficult to possess. Being bipolar is difficult. Being a woman (especially at night, especially in a city this size) is difficult. But being white is not difficult.
Talking about being white is tough. But I’m going to try.
I talk about race occasionally, privately, with friends of other races. I try to ask questions. I try to learn. I try to imagine what it would be like to have a skin color that is difficult to have. I try. And sure, I do my liberal duty and share a race-related news story on Facebook a couple of times per year. I voted for Obama. I admire people who speak up and do things. But I don’t speak up or do things. I used to excuse that fact by thinking that I’m too timid to speak up, scared that I’ll say the wrong thing. I used to excuse that fact by telling myself that I’m not allowed to speak up, because I’m white. And now I’m realizing that the reason I don’t speak up is that I don’t need to speak up about race – about oppression, about this country’s muddied history, about present-day race relations – because I’m white. My life doesn’t currently depend on whether or not I speak up or not, so I don’t do it. I don’t write letters to city or state or federal officials urging them to make legislative decisions that will help to lessen institutional racism. I don’t march in rallies. I don’t even talk to other white people about race. And although I’ve heard it, I’m just now fully understanding that staying quiet about race doesn’t make me neutral; it makes me complicit in systematic discrimination. It makes me a part of the problem. Does that make me a bad person? Yeah; actually, I think it does. You’ve heard that quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” It’s a noble thought, and it rings true now as much as it always has. But as I think more about the “good men” to whom it refers, I can’t help but argue that their perceived goodness is diminished by their inaction. Doing nothing isn’t as passive as I once thought it was. Doing nothing is an active sin of omission. I feel bad – but feeling bad doesn’t make me better. I need to do better. Because while my life may not depend on it, someone else’s may.