A Word to White People About Being White

ballonsby Edie Love

I took my baby to a party recently. Never mind where, it was a party full of white people. She and an adult were the only people of color I saw out of dozens, including myself. A three year old white boy came up and aimed a toy gun at my baby’s face. I had a visceral, nauseated reaction. Nobody else noticed. The child ran on, and my toddler kept playing, too. I walked home with her later, feeling as if I never want to take her to a party full of white people ever again.

And yet, I know, this is the real world. In this world, white people, white children, have no comprehension of the terror that mothers of black children feel when they think of their kids being assaulted because they are black. Not a whiff of the smell of the evil that white people with grown-up guns have done to black people for hundreds of years. Evil they are still doing to black people. In countless ways, in education, in the so-called justice system, in access to jobs, to even walking down the street, white supremacy will kill/maim/assault/rape a black child and then blame HER for it.

For those of you reading this getting upset about the gun, it has nothing to do with a gun. I have four white children, being a mother is not new for me. What is new is that my youngest child is black, and it is only fairly recently that I’ve begun to have an inkling of what it means to parent a child of color….what it means to grow up in this country as a child the world treats as ‘other,’ as lesser. It has to do with my sudden realization that though this was a small white child who was playing, white adults (this includes myself,) almost always have no greater comprehension of white supremacy, white toward black violence, stereotypes about who IS actually violent, et cetera. And the staggering understanding that when something happens to my child perpetrated by a white person or by the insidious system of white supremacy, SHE WILL BE BLAMED. Not the whiteness or the white privilege or the power imbalance or any of the other bullshit. She will be blamed for whatever horrible things happen to her as a result, because many white people have issues and problems with blackness.

As I pondered all of this, I felt frustration and anger bubbling up inside me like lava, at the blissful ignorance of the nice white people in my community. Life is so much easier when you’re white. Growing up white, I never had to worry about police or store owners seeing me as a bad person because of my color. I never had to worry about being thought of as less intelligent or less moral, due to my color. When I was little, I never had to give it a second thought if I wanted to play with a toy gun, but in this country, children who happen to be born black are killed for that. The nice white folks at the party didn’t notice, didn’t think about it, because they don’t have to. And I don’t know how to make them see, sometimes I still don’t even see, when it’s right in front of me. Waking up from the indoctrination of whiteness comes in little pieces, and it’s never complete for those of us born in white bodies. I benefit from the system of white supremacy every day I am alive. I am complicit in that system, too, even IF I were to work very hard to undermine it every chance I got.

I didn’t write this for your sympathy. I don’t want it, I don’t need it. I need your rage. I need you, my fellow white people, to act. I need you to teach your children about the history of privilege and oppression in this country. I need you to educate them about ALL of the United States history, not just the parts you are proud of. Slavery, genocide, rape, murder, and the sin of believing you can own another human being as your property are what built this nation. Teach your friends, family and children about that, please. Or else the machine of white wealth and white power keeps rolling on, across the bodies and lives of people like my child.

Edie Love is a R3 contributor

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