It took me a while to finally put pen to paper on this matter, because I didn’t − and still don’t − know how. Then I figured that I should do it anyway, fully aware that I’ll probably never get it right, simply because I am white, meaning that I’ll never know what it feels like to be non-white in a predominantly white community. My whiteness and my growing up within a society in which covert racism was and still is perfectly socially acceptable have efficiently shielded me not only from experiencing racism but also from learning about the persisting disparities between white and Black* people.
The extent of the trauma that Black people have had to endure until white people, including me, were finally shook in a way that made them want to learn more about systemic racism is heart-breaking**. Like many fellow white people, I always thought that I was sufficiently educated – not an expert, but still good enough – about racism and definitely didn’t consider myself racist. Boy, was I wrong! ***
Truth be told, I had been suspecting for a while that it would probably be useful to dig a little deeper, given that my automated reaction to anything remotely related to the subject of race was plain discomfort and avoidance, followed by reassuring myself that I was a good person and definitely not racist. I felt ashamed every time I flinched when crossing paths with a Black man in the park, but refused to give it any more thought beyond that moment, because I was definitely not racist (oh, the irony) and also too afraid to uncover my internalised racism and the underlying shame.
If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago, I’d have said that racism isn’t much of an issue in Luxembourg (or Europe, for that matter) these days. While the issue may not be as pressing in Luxembourg as it is in the United States of America, I was, once again, TERRIBLY wrong. Not knowing much about the reality of racism in Luxembourg is a clear manifestation of my white privilege: I don’t know much about the subject because I’ve simply never been disadvantaged because of the colour of my skin. I have the privilege to educate myself about racism instead of having to experience it firsthand.
Among the substantial amount of educational content that’s currently circulating on social media (which I’m incredibly thankful for – what a great use for social media platforms!), there was one particular post, albeit a rather inconspicuous one, that would definitely have shattered my white person bubble, had it been left intact until that moment: it was a post about the colour of plasters (or band-aids, as more commonly referred to in the USA) – they’re skin coloured, but only for white people. It obviously doesn’t end there (think about hair products, make-up and many more that are currently slipping my white person mind), but the mere fact that I accepted the reality of “skin coloured” plasters without even noticing how racist that is, is further proof that I live in a society that is inherently racist and that I’m definitely not not racist.
I’m also pretty sure that I stayed silent in a number of meetings or at dinner tables where, at one point or another, racist comments were made “as a joke”. I wasn’t the originator of the racist comments but I also didn’t speak up when the moment presented itself. If you consider that silence is a form of agreement, then I am, once again, not not racist.
According to what I could witness on different social media platforms, a lot of white people were so fired up about the past weeks’ events (and rightly so) that they sprung right into action, surely meaning well but instead reinforcing the one thing that has been hurting Black people: centering themselves instead of leaving the talking to the people who actually know best.
Admittedly, the fact that I’m writing this blog post is probably an immediate result of me trying to come to terms with my white guilt. However, given that this blog was created in order for me to share the subjects that I care about in the first place, it would have been a cowardly move to simply ignore this one altogether, out of fear of doing it wrong.
I still have a lot to learn, so on this note, I’d like to share with you a (short and definitely non-exhaustive!) list of resources that have helped me educate myself about racism so far. Also, remember that making donations (if you can!) to organisations that are and have been fighting for racial equality is a good way to help a cause no matter where you’re located in the world and that it’s important to vote (as the 2016 presidential elections in the USA should have taught us by now). In addition, “voting with your dollar” is another great and often overlooked way to bring about the changes you’d like to see in your country or even the world****.
Without further ado, here’s the promised list (in no particular order and, as previously stated, non-exhaustive):
Tupoka Ogette (→ author of the book “Exit Racism” which you can currently listen to on Spotify [in German]).
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
Tarana J. Burke
Black Lives Matter
NO WHITE SAVIORS
Article from The New York Times
* At first, I used the term Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) but then I learned the following:
** The murder of the Black American George Floyd by Police officers in Minneapolis on the 25th of May 2020 was the tipping point for many people across the globe.
*** On Brené Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us, Ibram X. Kendi explains the absence of such a thing as “neutrality” between being racist and being anti-racist.
[You may have noticed that I like to recommend listening to the Unlocking Us podcast – that’s mostly because I have yet to listen to an episode that I don’t like.
I haven’t listened to the episode with Austin Channing Brown yet, but I’m sure it’s very informative too.]
**** Consider buying from small (and Black-owned, if possible) businesses instead of buying from rich white men and choose ethically produced fashion over fast fashion: