Some years back I realised to my horror that I was a racist.
The world through brown eyes
Perhaps I should start several years before that, when my wife and I adopted Lolly – a black child. As I began to see the world through her brown eyes, I realised how blind I had been all my white life. The world according to Lolly was a white world, full of pink dolls, pink characters in story books and kids’ magazines, caps that were designed for white kids’ hair, pink leotards and pink Band-Aids. Her teachers were all white and the support staff were all black. The waiters were all black, but the managers were all white. One day early in her talking years she asked the poignant question: “Why are all the black people walking and all the white people driving?” We told her about apartheid.
Overt v Systemic Racism
I am not necessarily an overt racist. But that’s been the problem. The fact that I don’t commit acts of discrimination or prejudice gives me a self-righteousness that makes me blind to this stuff that Lolly sees. I thought I was on the side of the good guys. Turns out I am – and always have been – complicit in a racist system that favours white people.
A journey of recovery
But the message of this column is a good news message. The good news is that the journey of anti-racism – or what I refer to as recovering racism – is the most humbling and profound journey I have ever taken. I have had the most incredible conversations with people and got genuinely close to people that I never would have before, stumbling and fumbling my way through my whiteness.
Hello, my name is Justin
I have been exposed to the writing and speaking of the most brilliant black people whom I never knew existed never mind studied. My loss. And I have been able to let go of my protestations and justifications: “I am not a racist!” “I do not have white privilege!” “I don’t see colour!” “I work for NGO’s that ‘help’ black people”!
I am only just out the start blocks of anti-racism – and I will be learning until I die – but I can say this with great sincerity:
Hello. My name is Justin.
I am a recovering racist.I work with companies, schools, NGO’s and individuals wanting to breakdown racism. We are in a very significant moment in history that is asking big questions of us, particularly white people. Let’s talk firstname.lastname@example.org