“Harmony will prevail. After darkness, there will be light. The light cannot come without the darkness. Better days are bound to come now.” – Sook Nyul Choi
Terrible things happened in our country today. It’s all over the news and people way smarter than me have already written down their thoughts and reflections about today’s events. I am not a news reporter and I am not interested in the details about what happened. All I know is that a group of white people, who embrace hate and believe that their skin color makes them superior, caused terrible things to happen in Charlottesville, Virginia. Lives have been lost and many of us are shocked and angered that such a blatant demonstration of white supremacy, hate, and violence could happen in this country.
The events of the day have caused me to pause and reflect on those things that moved me from not seeing racism when I started college to being able to see and understand the role racism plays in our country. In addition to understanding racism, I also think it’s incredibly important to identify and be aware of white privilege. The two go hand and hand and are basically two sides of the same coin.
When I reflect on the things in my life that helped me better understand racism and white privilege, I think about (in no particular order):
- Developing close personal friendships with people of color over a long period of time.
- Reading Roots: The Sage of an American Family by Alex Haley.
- Watching the entire 14-episode Eyes on the Prize series. It’s long but incredibly important. Every American should be required to watch this award-winning documentary.
- Being in situations where I was the only white person in a group.
- Re-learning American history with a balanced and multicultural lens, such as A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
- Watching a Frontline documentary called A Class Divided that helps demonstrate the effect of prejudice and bias, especially on children.
- Reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.
- Working to understand my own upbringing and the limited way I was taught to see the world.
- Reading White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.
- Learning from wise and open-minded teachers and mentors, both white and people of color, who were willing to guide my journey and share their experiences.
Some of these videos and books are older, but many have been revised and are still relevant today. If you are interested in increasing your knowledge and awareness about racism, each of these is a great starting point. I would humbly suggest devoting the time and energy to try all of them. You will have no regrets!
I am also interested and curious to hear your thoughts and experiences. What would you recommend reading, watching, or doing to help white people broaden their awareness of racism? What do you feel compelled to share after witnessing the hate and violence in Charlottesville?