Someone I once knew used to make everything so very black and white. …Racially. I know that they were simply speaking from personal background and experience as a black person. In this country, there has been a lot a lot of conversation about racism against black people, and I know we still need more. But when conversations lean towards the black/white binary, my brow automatically and uncontrollably furrows. Which side do you expect me to be on? Which side should I be on? What are the sides, even? And I already know that there are way more than just two.
I confess that as a young child I was totally racist. I’m not proud of it, but I was also seven. I’m trying to cut myself just a tiny bit of slack, since I grew up to be a lot less racist. I recognize that as a light-skinned person (except in summer!) who is from a country that is widely recognized as safe, hardworking, and not a general “menace” to (white) society, I have a lot of privilege and that it gets in my way every day. I get in my way every day. I don’t internalize and recognize that privilege as often as I should. And I sure as hell didn’t has a seven year old.
What I want to consider in particular, though, is the fact that I sort of approached it pretending like I was a white person. No, I don’t know what that means. I mean, I guess, in the “them vs us” mentality that I had, I considered “us” to be white people. And that I was a part of it. And so when I experienced my earliest memory of explicit racism against me, several years later, I was unprepared for how it would affect me. The memories of me as a seven year old and me as a twelve year old linger now, seeping into the corners at unexpected moments.
And still now, amidst countless conversations about race occurring in my current city, all I can ever hear is black and white. It’s the only story that anyone tells. And now I don’t think I’m either “them” or “us.” Or maybe I am both. Thinking I was white was wrong, but at least I felt like I belonged somewhere.