I am a recovering racist.
It’s in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge my own racism. For though I was raised by white liberal parents who early on supported Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement during the Sixties, I grew up in America, in fact, in the South, and thus I unconsciously took on common beliefs and attitudes prevalent in the dominant cultural paradigm about people whose skin was darker than mine. “White people are smarter.” “Black people are better athletes.” Etcetera. And though I’ve become conscious of those beliefs, I have not rooted them all out and doubt that I ever will. At the very least, however, I can notice when my mind makes snap judgments (young black man driving a late model SUV = drug dealer) and recognize them for the falsehoods they are.
It’s in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge how I’ve benefited and continue to benefit from white privilege. From attending high school in my youth in a new building with relatively current textbooks while black kids on the other side of town were all segregated into one old building with hand-me-down books from the white schools to currently walking down the streets of Asheville at any time of day or night without fear of being harassed by the police, I have benefited from white privilege.
It’s in times such as these that I am compelled to acknowledge that I live in a nation that was built on a foundation of white supremacy—from the genocide of Native Americans whose land we stole, to the enslavement and subjugation of black people for the wealth their labor could bring, to the current slaughter of people of color in the Middle East for their oil.
It’s in times such as these that I’m compelled to acknowledge that all our thoughts and prayers, conversations about race, demonstrations against injustice, voting for worthy candidates, passing laws, etcetera, none of these efforts will bring about the reconciliation we say we seek until we come to grips with our sordid past and our ongoing deadly incursions into the affairs of other nations, until we ask for forgiveness from and offer reparations to the peoples we have harmed.[This essay also appeared on The Huffington Post and The Good Men Project website as well as at Truthout and in the Asheville Citizen-Times.]