I realize that this title is off putting and even a bit bizarre, but just go with me here…
As humans we have this tendency to make assumptions about the people around us. We go about our lives assuming that most people in our area/socio-economic class/religion/workplace/city/etc. have a similar experience or many similar experiences as we do. We tend to start conversations, behave in certain ways, post (or not post) certain things on social media based on these assumptions.
A friend of mine recently revealed to me that he has never had a Klondike bar. I was flabbergasted. He is 31 years old, not allergic to any of the ingredients, and not a super health conscious person. How on earth has an adult in this area never had a Klondike bar? I realized that I was making an assumption that he (and everyone else) had the same experience as I did. This was just a very small example of a hugely prevalent system of group thinking.
That got me wondering about all the other things I just sort of take for granted. For instance, I had been working under the (obviously wrong) assumption that most people in my life were open minded and kind and understood that systemic racism is a thing and that they would support the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM has been around for years, this is not a new thing. Racism has been present in our country since before it was founded.
I truly did not realize this as a child. I grew up in the 80s/90s in an all white school district. But I watched TV shows like Captain Planet, The Magic Schoolbus, Star Trek, and LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow. United Colors of Benneton showed me that people of all races can be friends. Michael Jackson was singing lyrics like “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white” and Oprah Winfrey was telling housewives across America the best books to read.
So growing up, I had this very sheltered sort of upbringing in that I just assumed everyone was treated the same because that’s what I saw. Occasionally I would hear someone saying racist things or using racial slurs, but they were labelled a racist and that was a very negative thing. And there weren’t very many of them. I didn’t realize racism was a real problem. I didn’t realize that interracial marriage wasn’t even LEGAL until 12 years before I was born. I didn’t realize the huge number of problems people of color face in this world until much, much later.
And frankly, I still don’t understand the true scope of systemic racism and I never will, because I am white. But I am here to learn. I am here to support BIPOC (which I only recently discovered means Black and Indigenous People Of Color). I am here to help educate others even though I am very much aware of my own ignorance. We all have to start somewhere, right?