This is the next post in my guest series on racism, which I am extending indefinitely. I have decided that one month is not enough to devote to this topic. I want to let people have the opportunity to discuss race in an open and honest way.
This post is written by a former coworker of mine from many years ago. I like this post because it is way more raw than much of the writing here on this blog. To be frank, it is an insider’s look at an academically uneducated view on race from the white person. It is not a hateful view, but a limited one.
It does have some things in it I disagree with, academically. But instead of having the author change them to fit my views, I decided to leave them in, but I feel pressed to make sure that I point out a couple of things.
In this post, the author mentions “reverse racism.” Her views are honest. So I left it in, because the notion of “reverse racism” still runs rampant in our society.
Academically, this notion is flawed. But because white people generally do not understand racism, or feel it personally when they do not hate, it is a common misconception in the white community.
I felt it myself, for a long time, until I began to understand the difference between racism and prejudice. Anyone can be prejudiced. But according to critical race theory, racism is something that black people in America cannot be, simply because racism is too deeply ingrained in society. Because we live in a culture of institutionalized racism, one does not need to be black-hating racist in order to still be defined as a racist. You simply are because you were born into this societal fabric. On the opposing view, one can be in the minority and can hate, or be prejudiced against the majority, but that does not make that person a racist. They are simply prejudiced against the status quo.
And with that, I give you a raw and honest look at a white woman’s view on race. From love with Detroit.
Ok, let me start off by saying, I plan to be open and honest, but will probably not be.
Not that I’m going to lie, but let’s be honest here. This is a hot button topic, and anything said about race will set someone off, so you need to tread lightly.
Second thing is, I’m a bit of a rambler, I don’t really even know what I’m going to say, so bear with me.
I like to think of myself as a non-judgmental person. I don’t judge people on their race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, whatever. I do, however, judge people based on their personalities. So, I can’t understand why people would lump groups of people together based on anything other than their personalities.
My Experiences with Other Races
I grew up in a suburb of Detroit. In about the third grade I became close friends with a girl who was mixed. Mom white, dad black. Mom was remarried to a white guy, and she had a younger half brother. I never really thought anything about her being mixed, she was just my friend.
We both loved to sing and dance, her mom had a jukebox, so we would hang out at her house, playing oldies, singing and dancing.
About a year later, I had my first run in with racism. We were walking home one day, and a car started following us, pacing us. We kept walking, aware that there was someone following, but ignoring them. Next thing I know the person started yelling racist remarks, to both of us. I can’t remember exactly what they said, but I was in awe. They drove off. It was eye opening, because I realized then, that this is something she dealt with on a regular basis.
Later that year, members of the KKK were outside the school, handing out flyers, spreading their hate, and it was then I realized that there was true hate in this world.
In middle school I went to school with a new mix of kids, I added Jewish, and even more black kids to my group of friends. I again, never thought twice about it, they were people I got along with, people I liked.
I, again, was to be shocked –by a family member–when I started dating a Jewish boy. I was told that there was nothing wrong with people who were Jewish, but that I shouldn’t date them. I was also told the same thing, when I later, started dating black boys.
None of this changed my views, I still looked at people as people. I didn’t understand why, when I went to the mall with my friends who were black, we were followed through the department stores by the employees there, in fact, asked to leave the store at one point, when all we were doing was walking through the store to get to the main part of the mall.
Feeling My Own Prejudice
In high school I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the Horizons Upward-Bound program. It’s a wonderful program, that includes kids from Pontiac, Detroit and Berkley. To be invited, you have to pass tests, be the first member of your family to attend college, be from a low income family, and have a high IQ.
During the summer, we stayed on campus, at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, for six weeks. We slept in the dorms, and on weekend, we had free run of the campus. This was when I feel I fully understood what it must feel like to be a minority. The very first day I was there, after I got my room, I went to the cafeteria, to eat lunch and I was taken aback. I didn’t know anyone at all in the room, not even anyone from my own city of Berkley.
There were, say, 400 students there, and maybe 40 of them were white, and included in the white students were people of Hispanic origin, Asians, and Middle Easterners.
I had never been in that situation. I was scared. Not because of any reason other than, I was the minority, I didn’t fit in. I found my roommate, who was Hispanic, and we went and sat at a table together in the back. There were two tables, further back, but those were only for the Seniors. The rest of the table was all white.
But as the summers went on, I made a lot of friends there. From Detroit, and Pontiac. My Sophomore year I had my eyes opened, yet again. That was the year I discovered “reverse racism”
I was dating a black guy, and a couple of his friends (black), were dating other white girls. We were all a big group of friends, so we were all pretty close. The boys informed us one day that a teacher had them stay after class so he could talk to them about dating white girls. He thought it was a shame that they would date white girls when there were perfectly fine black girls to date, that if they kept doing this, they would be killing their race.
I was again in awe, and lost complete respect for this teacher. And it was then I realized that no matter what race you were, you could be racist.
I’ve learned things in my adult life, how racist people are.
I have had to wait on people that I knew to be Nazis, I have had to deal with people of other races using their race to get out of things, and when I brought the fact that they weren’t doing their job to my bosses attention, they said I was racist.
I currently work in a mixed neighborhood, we have just as many black customers as white, most of my co-workers are black, and I have been told, by not only co-workers, but by customers, that I may be white on the outside but black on the inside.
I find I can fit in with any group of people pretty much, black, white, Jewish, Christian, Pagan, all sexual orientations, I look at myself as a chameleon. I was once accused of being fake, because of my ability to do that, but I’m not fake. I look at it as I have many, many parts of me, and that allows me to fit in with everyone.
Teaching My Daughter My Views
I have raised my daughter to do the same thing, look on the inside, not the outside. If I don’t like you, it has nothing to do with your physical appearance, it has everything to do with your behavior. If you act rude, or ignorant, I’m not going to give you any respect, but if you carry yourself like a decent human being, treating others with kindness and respect, I will treat you the same.
It’s a shame that it is the year 2014, and people are still having to discuss racism. I don’t understand why people have such hatred inside of them. I think that people are people, and everyone is equal.
I think everyone should have the same chances as everyone else, and that there shouldn’t be special treatment for anyone.
I just hope that maybe, this can inspire someone else to think twice before judging someone else. And I’m proud to say that I am “black on the inside”, but to me, I’m just me.
It’s a shame that personality traits are viewed as one race or another, or that people can’t be just viewed as people, but have to be typecast because they can fit in with other people.
Crystal Breger is a white woman in the suburbs of Detroit, which is one of the few metropolitan cities in the country that has a majority of African Americans. She is a wife and mother to one, in a white, monoracial family.
This guest post is part of a series that I initiated during Black History Month. This guest series has been extended indefinitely. If you are interested in contributing, please see this post for more details. Or go directly to my Submit Guest Posts page.