When I first experienced being on the receiving end of hearing that yes, I TOO, could claim the title of white supremacist (not the hood wearing kind, instead the complicit with my culture kind) my first reaction was to defend myself.
I am married to an Asian man, I CAN’T be racist.
I am aware of bias and privilege in culture, I CAN’T be a part of the problem.
I was raised in a radically liberal faith to believe that all people are equal. I grew up listening to “Free to Be You and Me” and Alan Alda and Rosie Greer taught me that boys can cry. Members of my family are Black.
I was like Wonder Woman fending off the idea that I was complicit in the systems of oppression present in my culture.
But I am. And I was. And I will work every day to root out the cultural norms I experience and benefit from every day, but it is not likely that I will ever be able to drop the vigilance.
I’m part of the problem, but I hope that I am also leaning toward being a part of the solution, too.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned: when I am feeling defensive about an issue, particularly a claim made by people who are historically marginalized by the culture in which I live, that THIS is when I need to stop and breathe into my prefrontal cortex and really, really listen.
Sometimes I need to listen by talking with other white people to help me deal with my OWN feelings so I can hear. Sometimes I need to read a little more on an issue, in particular checking to be sure I’m reading the work of a person of color.
Sometimes I need to just step back and close my mouth (or still my typing fingers) and sometimes, I just need to go for a walk and let my own defensive feelings fade.
Defensiveness = pay attention. I should put it on a sticky note. Maybe on my forehead.
Then later we can talk about the incredibly sexualized superhero uniform Ms. Wonder Woman is wearing. I mean, come on, really?
But hey now, that airplane? I’m all about that airplane!
Want to read more? This is a great blog post by Annie Gonzalez Milken.