I keep being told that as white people, it’s our job to have the “difficult conversations” with other white people. I grew up in a small, entirely white, super right wing town. When I saw those photos of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, I was struck by the feeling that I *knew* those boys. I went to school with them, I worked with them, I turned them down for dates. So I’m taking this conversation straight to the source, on the smallest off-chance that it might help.
Oh my darlings,
I don’t know you personally, but I’ve known boys like you all my life, and I’ve seen some of your faces in the news. The photos from Charlottesville are terrifying. The men holding those torches, they look so… hateful and angry.
But you aren’t really hateful and angry, are you?
From what I can gather, you’ve grown up being fed the idea that white people founded this country, and that POC are trying to take it away from you. You’ve been taught that left-wing people want to hand this country to a bunch of people who don’t look like you, stripping you of your power, you rights, your history, and your heritage.
I imagine that is a very scary thought.
Frankly, when I was first confronted with the idea that my white skin has provided me with opportunities, resources, and privileges that I did nothing to earn, I was offended.
How dare anyone tell me that my life has been easy??
Being offended put me on the offensive; the result felt a lot like anger.
But slowly as I continued to talk to people about the issues, I started to realize that what I was feeling wasn’t really anger at all.
What I actually felt was sadness, that I had anything to do with the accidental oppression of others.
What I actually felt was fear, that by admitting my own privilege I was admitting to being a bad person.
What I felt was guilt, and shame, that it took me so long to realize my whiteness had kept me in a bubble of safety and comfort while other people were terrified and struggling.
Now let’s take a look at what you’re fighting for. You don’t want to be replaced, right?
You’ve been told that we (the left-wing liberals) want to destroy your history, your heritage, and your rightful place in power.
So you’re fighting for a place to feel safe. A place to be free, and not have to apologize for the color of your skin, or worry that someone is going to come in and oppress you at any moment.
My sweet angels, this is not anger. This is terror. You are terrified of losing your identity.
But what if challenging your identity was exactly what you need to do to get the genuine love and acceptance you so crave?
You have inherited a set of values and cherished beliefs, along with your whiteness, which have been passed down to you generation after generation, but which don’t rightly belong to you. One of those cherished beliefs is that you, due to the white color of your skin, are superior to other people. That you are more worthy, more deserving of love, connection, opportunity, and power than other people.
But what if you were only exactly as worthy of love, safety, connection, opportunity, and belonging, as every other human being on this planet? What if nothing about you was more special or deserving than anyone else?
I imagine that would be a powerfully painful loss, no?
Dear hearts, this is grief. You are grieving.
Or, more accurately, you are resisting grief. You are stuffing anger down the chasm that grief has opened up in front of you, because you know how to be angry. But you never learned how to grieve something as big as your history, your heritage, or your identify.
Most of us didn’t. That is a privilege we have had because we are white.
The irony here is that if you really want to be free, you need to give up the belief that you are superior. You will also need to give up the belief that you are a victim.
These are very difficult stories to give up, and it will hurt.
You will need to learn how to accurately recognize what you’re feeling, and accurately articulate it to others, so that they can help you. You will need to learn how to connect with people, rather than demanding that they bow to you. You will need to learn how to listen, and grieve, and examine yourself, and then listen again.
But I promise you, we all want the same thing.
Deep down— waaaayyy deep down— you want to be loved, and to love, and to contribute, and to live a life of meaning.
You want to be accepted, and valued, for exactly who you are.
You want to feel whole, and safe, and to belong.
It might feel like we are threatening your rights, but all we are threatening is your belief that you deserve to feel whole and safe and worthy and valued… while POC don’t.
We are only threatening your right to treat worthiness and rights like a giant pie, as though the only way you can have enough is if you steal some from everyone else.
There is plenty to go around. Their rights don’t take away from yours, unless you specifically believe you deserve to have more than other people.
And if that’s actually what you really believe, truly, deep down in your heart of hearts, then you will never be free anyway, because you will spend your entire life fighting off danger, rather than contributing something meaningful and valuable to the world.
Do you see?
Other people have been so oppressed, in so many ways visible and invisible to you, for so long, that they have never once had the opportunity to feel safe marching in the streets holding a torch and chanting that we should kill the jews.
Many people have been too busy teaching their children to act white enough that the cops don’t shoot them to worry about challenging their beliefs. You are terrified to lose your identity and your power, while POC are terrified to lose their lives.
POC are already being erased and oppressed as you read this. They have never been free, never been safe, in this country. But you have.
This is why we now say things like #blacklivesmatter.
We are not saying that you do not matter, we are simply acknowledging that you have always mattered, while POC have not.
We are not saying that POC (or women, or Jews, or anyone) are better or more worthy than you, simply that you are not better or more worthy than them.
I recognize how deeply painful and scary it will be to step back and examine your beliefs like this, but I suspect you can rise to the challenge.
We are not trying to steal your history, your identity, your rights, or your worthiness. We’re simply suggesting that all of those things exist on a totally new paradigm: one in which there is plenty for all of us, and nobody needs to be superior or inferior anymore.
When we look at our modern culture through this new paradigm, horrendous injustices are plainly exposed, and we must work to set them right.
It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but you can be a key player in helping us all be free.
After all, you are young, passionate, and capable. You know what it feels like to be afraid, and lonely, and in need of acceptance and belonging.
You can use that passion and empathy— along with the social capital that your white skin affords you— to step back from this hateful “white superiority” rhetoric, and help us make this country a place where every single person feels exactly as worthy, safe, and valued as you have for your whole life.
You have an opportunity to make a difference here. Please do not let us down again.
With all my heart