It is Easy to Say Nothing is About Race When You Are White
It is easy to say nothing is about race when you are white.
Because when you are white, nothing is about race.
Being white is, essentially, the non race. It is the absence of race, in so many ways. Being a white male, as Louis C.K. once said, is like playing the video game on the easiest level.
Being a white woman may turn the video game up a notch, but it is still so much easier than the last level.
For the last four years of my life, I have been white and I have taught in predominantly black communities. I have been a part of more diversity than I ever imagined, coming from my snow white suburbs to the low income communities of Tennessee, and it has shaped my enormously tiny brain more than I could have ever thought.
Because I witnessed the stereotypes, the struggles, the overwhelming weight that race can bear and that race can relieve.
I have not followed the Zimmerman trial like he followed Trayvon that night. I have not kept a scrupulously close eye on it, because deep down I probably knew what the verdict would be. And that verdict is probably true to the law which is true to the constitution which is true to… what, exactly? But I have followed to social media outcries and I have read the words of the pundits and the rants of the ignorant and the words of the foolish. And I have read it from both sides and I have cringed and I have bitten my tongue and I have breathed deeply.
It is so easy to say that this case is not about race when you are white.
It is so easy to say that you are glad Zimmerman is free when you are white.
It is so easy to do anything when you are white.
That is not to say that being white comes without challenges, that life is always an open meadow full of happiness and opportunity, money and open doors. But it is simply not the same.
And I cannot comment on what it is like to be black, because I have never been black. I can not say that something is not about race, because I have barely known anything about race. I was born into what I always perceived as an absence of race, because my race didn’t really matter.
It is foolish to think that we can comment deeply and meaningfully on the perception, life, and, in this sad sad case, grief, of another race when we simply do not understand. We are all human and we are all in this tangled mess of life together, yes, we really are. But, who am I to talk about racial profiling or black stereotypes as a white woman? I have never experienced those things. My opinion is a mere snapshot based on stories from friends and movies and popular culture and my own distant and shallow experiences.
I cannot give insight on what it is like to be a man in America, because I do not know. I cannot give insight on what it is like to be black in America, because I do not know. I can listen and I can try to understand and I can comfort and I can hear both sides and I can open up arms of grace and prayer and confusion and hurt, because that is sometimes all I can do.
But I cannot pretend that I am black and that I fully understand. And I cannot say that nothing is about race.
And that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.