***I try to keep this site, Stigma Breakers, about mental health related topics. I am not one to write about current events, but the current events are too burdensome and significant to ignore. Black Lives Matter is a mental health issue.
I grew up in the south in a community filled with race-fueled hate — from microaggressions to full-blown spit-in-the-face racism. I grew up with white-washed textbooks, not once hearing about my community’s involvement in slavery and the Civil War.
I was raised in a very white, conservative place, but I wasn’t raised that way. I see it as a blessing, but I also acknowledge that it made me blind. It does not dismiss me from the need to reflect, learn, and grow.
I was born privileged. The color of my skin put me on a path to a future that minorities may never get. Police officers have always been kind and calm towards me. I’ve never been attacked on the basis of my skin or my heritage. My ancestors fought in the Confederacy.
My town touts its dedication to the Confederacy, but they didn’t teach the reason we fought the war in school. We received inadequate learning in school about race and slavery. We learned a little bit, sure, but nobody talked about the racial injustices now. No one taught us the inequalities in our society currently.
I went to college in Charleston, South Carolina, once a hub of the international slave trade. Was I ever taught about the enslaved there? Nope. I walked down streets named after slaveholders, walked underneath the Calhoun statue in Marion Square. Never once did I question it or feel the burden we placed on Black Charlestonians who walk these streets every day.
THAT is white privilege. I accepted the education I received at face value. I was always kind and loving to people of all races, but I never did my own research. I never learned what my ancestors did. I never considered that the southern retelling of history is through a white lens. I learned this history and lived in a historic place, but I never considered the implications of this false narrative. I was so desinsitized to slavery and racism and social injustice, and I think many white Southerners are as well.
Moving to the north definitely played a part in understanding the inequalities. I saw public housing and noted the disparity. I listened to and read local news and learned about the injustice. I was given access to so many museums that told truer versions of the history I learned. I googled. I diversified my feeds. I listened to podcasts and read books. And apparently, that still wasn’t enough, because it’s taken freaking nation-wide protests for me to speak up.
I felt angry. But I also felt frozen, like I couldn’t be of any help. Who am I, a privileged white girl, to say anything? But that’s exactly right, I am privileged. And I can use my privilege as a platform for action. If you are part of the systemic issue, you can be part of the collective action.
If you find yourself in a position of privilege, here are some things you can do:
1. Do your own research
You have the privilege to research racial inequalities instead of experiencing them. Don’t shy away from learning about what you’ve ignored — what our community has ignored. Some great places to start:
- How to be Antiracist, Ibrahm X. Kendi
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson
And while you’re at it, diversify your feed.
2. Question your desensitization
Why have you learned about slavery, racism, and social injustice, yet you don’t shed a tear? Confront the desensitization. You aren’t apathetic, you’ve just been trained to not feel anything by your society. Connect the dots. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself why Black people are so angry. Feel that anger. Then do something about it.
3. Use your platform to share others’ voices
You have a privilege many others don’t. Use your social media platforms and your connections to voice these injustices. Don’t ignore it and post about your “SUPER fun pool day with your kids!” Don’t be tone deaf. Don’t pretend a revolution isn’t happening. Be part of the revolution.
4. Confront others
Correct your racist family members. Dump your racist boyfriend. Sorry, but justice and equality mean more to me than family. Speak up. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Sometimes the best way to change views is to understand — seek to understand their logic, and then dismantle the hell out of it.
This nation is changing. We will not go back. America was never great. And while we’re at it, Black lives are not political. These are literally people who just want to be as equal as you and me. So help them get there, or get the hell out of our way.