Muddling Through

Many people on Facebook are talking about racism in America currently, and it’s depressing. Note that I am not saying they should stop because I don’t want to be depressed; on the contrary- things need to change. Soon. It’s just that I don’t know how anyone can look at societal injustice issues on a deeper level than they ever have before and not be hurt by it.

It’s like finding out that Soylent Green is made of people. Yesterday, your world was fine. You got up, ate, performed tasks, and went to sleep. Today, you know that your way of life is built on the suffering (and in this case, death) of other people. If you don’t feel sick after that, then I don’t understand you.

So, I’m white. And from a northern state. The Underground Railroad traveled through here, helping people escape to Canada. I live in a fairly homogeneous white area. Racism has always been abstract for me before. I seldom see a person of a different race, let alone have the opportunity to try to start a friendship (via my awkward social skills) in order to gain the opportunity to hear someone else’s life story.

And yes, there is the Internet, but because researching atrocities has historically made me near suicidal, I try to be wise when deciding to traumatized myself further. (Also, I have genocide-related trauma that hasn’t been dealt with and sometimes causes flashbacks, so maybe it’s ok if I don’t drown myself in injustice every waking moment. I hope it’s ok. Some days, it hurts just to breathe.)

… Right. Not what I came here for. I meant to point you to this article. It’s about white privilege: what it can look like, and why it’s invisible, and how we should take the time to sort out human privileges (things that every human deserves to have- these need to expand to include everyone) and oppressive privileges (things that require one group to suffer in order to benefit the other group- these need to be torn down).

It’s a good article. It starts with a discussion of the similarities between white privilege and male privilege, and I think it provides a good (if basic) framework for both of them. It helped me understand why some things that are obvious to me (as a woman) can be infuriatingly invisible to some men (and women) in the same culture. I read with an open mind, and when I reached the list of things that the author, as a white woman, could expect to be true in her life, while her colleagues of color could not expect these things… I was horrified. Enraged. Appalled.

I really thought that everyone’s life was like that list. That everyone could feel safe and dignified. I hate that it’s not true. I feel sick again just typing this. Because it’s wrong! Horribly, inhumanly wrong! And I have no idea how to stop it, how to change things, or what on earth can be done to make this country safe for everyone.

So I’m glad that I know more now, because I can stop sounding like a dismissive idiot. But I’m sad too, because I can’t do anything about it. I feel so powerless, but I know I need to give myself time to finish internalizing my new reality and to prepare for new social contacts (because meeting strangers is terrifying), and then I can try to find people near me who are doing something. 

I just wish that one day, when I learn something new about the world, I won’t have to refile my whole brain again in order to incorporate a new type of brokenness into the whole.


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