I was in a class about Cultural Identity. We split into groups. We called them “affinity groups”. I am a “white girl” or should I say “Caucasion”? Whatever I am, I went with the “whites” of which we are a minority in this class. The “blacks” were in their own cultural group. Each group shared about issues of racism, being as open and honest as possible. Then we came back together.
I spoke of my prejudice. I saw frowns. Me? Prejudiced? Maybe I call it that because I have a different history and culturally ingrained “white” upbringing that will always be a part of me. Maybe it's because I feel blamed. I have never claimed “prejudice”. I consider myself as a poster child for accepting differences. I would never want to be that way. I grew up in a white neighborhood, a white school, and a white church. . I went to Muncie Central where there were many of “people of color”. Blacks, I mean. Or maybe it’s African American. Whatever. They were classmates and I flourished from knowing them. I accepted them. I was told by my parents not to date a “black guy”. (Please remember that this was over 50 years ago) I didn’t get that because I liked guys of all colors and races. I went to black churches to understand and mix. My grandma used the term “those colored people” I, being an artist at heart, loved diversity of color and background.
As I matured, I spent lots of times with “black” friends in college, even though I was in a “white” sorority. White? That’s just who I am. Black? Are they separate. We all are. No maybe it’s us. Oh, I don’t know. We….they, us…them, theirs ours. What the….
I strongly acknowledge us all as human beings. I grieve for a nation who tried to dominate, pushing out native Americans, and owning slaves. Sickening.
I, through many conversations in diverse settings, accept all cultures. I’m in a neighborhood of Indians, Turkish, Chinese, and African Americans and we gather often and “break bread together”. My door is always open and vice versa. It is rich.
So why am I prejudiced? In particular, many, who are of African descent, don’t always make me feel comfortable. I feel like I can’t say anything without someone pinpointing that something is racist. My intentions are not to offend or be racist. I want to be open and honest. I have a certain vocabulary and the vocabulary that is accepted is changing all the time. When people know me, they know my desire to accept and love. It may not come across at first because my words are coming from a white face.
When I speak with my closest friend, who is Indian, I do not have to watch my language. We accept one another’s cultural identities and we laugh and talk about them often, as we experience life together.
The difference with African Americans is that they have a history in mixing with “whites” in the United States’ contrived social system… for centuries. We can’t seem to shake the feelings on both ends, of sorrow, regret, ignorance, and the need to repent and forgive – on BOTH sides.
I am hurt when I’m considered racist because I am white. I, myself, feel prejudiced against, even though my motives are well-meaning.
Can this be fixed? Perhaps one person at a time and let it begin with me. And, God, as the authority, may we all come under his love and shelter, TOGETHER.
(I have used many different terms for African Americans in this treatise, because the words often stick in my throat and I don’t know which terms offend and which don’t. I am uncomfortably aware. How do I get over it?)