AwareNow: Issue 7: The Return Edition

Page 43

PERSONAL STORY BY JOHN MARTIN

PEELING THE ONION FROM 64 YEARS OF RACISM IGNORANCE TO 1 YEAR OF LEARNING “I want to share something my 65 year old, white father wrote. I share this to inspire and fortify those who need to hear it. If you’re like me you’ve been tempted to give up having these talks, feeling too demoralized finding dead end after dead end. Receiving this email from him brought me to tears. Suffice to say, this is new.” - Jenny M. Let me start by clarifying that I am that typical sixty-five year old privileged white man. Grew up in the suburbs, college educated, physician/surgeon. Throughout my adult life I saw myself as anything but prejudice to race, you know, I had black friends after all! Now entering the fall of 2020, I am embarrassed and humbled by my life long ignorance. Guided mostly by my two profoundly enlightened adult daughters I have gained insights into a world I conveniently ignored. As it turns out I believe this new education to be perhaps the most important and significant contribution to my understanding of self and society.

Let me start with what I believe to be my most significant revelation. I now see how myself and my contemporaries place racism into obvious definable actions. Things like slavery, segregation, KKK activities, and other overt actions. Understanding however the racism we don’t see is perhaps the more pervasive and devastating. This invisible form just outside our conscious awareness is the subliminal perpetuator of the real consequential racism by us “nonprejudice” white people.

In what I would call “my group” of contemporaries all of us “non-racist” unconsciously legitimize our retort to things like the riots as “look at those people, robbing themselves” as if to say we are not prejudice but come on, us whites would not do that. I’m surrounded by age peers who innately legitimize ideologies that justify some level of racism. It now pains me to think I have been part of this “peer”. It never occurred to me that I had not been made to feel inferior my entire life only because of the color of my skin. What would I burn down if that was my reality since birth?

And my embarrassments continue. My past position of “I’m color blind or I don’t see color” is so obviously insulting to anyone of color. What such a statement or ideology really says is “Sorry, I don’t really see you at all”. Now what I want to say is just the opposite, I want to say yes, I see you in living color! We self-proclaimed non-racist try so hard to say and show we are not racist yet most of us don’t even understand what it is. The layers, the subtleties, the hidden prejudices inflicted on us throughout our privileged lives is powerful and very difficult to recognize.

Even the so called “Christian” world is really one of the worlds great perpetuators of racism. Having lived in Europe for a couple years and touring the great cathedrals it never occurred to me until now that all the statues for all practical purposes are white. All the saints, hell even Jesus is white! Clearly being white is divine!

43 AWARENOW / THE RETURN EDITION

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