Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

Vacationing through racial smog…..

Written by, Dana Kaiser-Davidson (age 27)

I recently took an Amtrack train from Colorado to San Jose. During the trip, there was a White ranger giving talks over the intercom about the history of the land and the railroad. He announced that one of the gifts of the railroad was the diversity of labor gave way to the ethnic diversity present in the U.S today. He painted a picture of well-treated Chinese labor being respected for their healthy food and hard work as well as fairly paid Native Americans, African Americans and Mexican Americans. Even though I knew this fairytale version omitted the history of racism against the Chinese, being legally binded to temporary work; there was no mention of the land used for the railroads had been stolen from Native Americans and Mexicans (who were called aliens of their own land); I sat in the comfort of my own seat knowing that the silence of racism was diminishing my humanity, my connection to the white folks and people of color on the train. I chose to feel bad and hide in my privilege rather than to speak up. In the section on Loss, in Tim Wise’s book, White Like Me, he says that, “People never hurt others in moments of personal strength and bravery, when they are feeling good about themselves, when they are strong and confident,” (p.126). I realize now that self-love and forgiveness are essential in speaking up to reclaiming humanity and ending racism. If I had been practicing self-love on the train, rather than dwelling in guilt, I might have had the courage to speak to the people around me to vocalize the absurdity of the ranger’s comments.  Today I choose to feel good about myself and commit to speaking up to racism especially in moments of feeling uncomfortable. Rather than trying to do it perfectly, I commit to speaking to reclaim my humanity.  Shedding the guilt and the silence mobilizes me into dealing with the loss from “whiteness” and white privilege.  Ending racism becomes an everyday “have to.”

 

 

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Reflections from recent workshop, “Power and Privilege Sharing” in Santa Cruz area, facilitated by Reverend Deborah Johnson, Bonnie Wills, Lauren Parker Kucera, and C. Michael Woodstock.

 

written by Dana Kaiser-Davidson

 

I grew up thinking that the best thing I could do with my privilege was to pretend like I didn’t have it. In a group dialogue about early messages learned about privilege, I inauthentically told the group that I was taught doing good was the best thing to do with privilege. By attending two “White Ally Learning Labs” and reading several books on white privilege, I have learned many tools to support my ability to dialogue about white privilege and racism with white people. I’m also getting better at having a deeper sense of compassion for myself and other white folks.  Even so, I still felt this childhood sweaty palmed fear and desire to hide from the conversation. It was as if I wanted to use the silence as an opportunity to feel bad about myself.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until tenth grade in the cultivation of a few dear friendships with women of color that I truly began to learn through listening to their personal testimony about racism. I got it right away that I could not say, “I know what you mean,” because I had never been made to feel inferior or had my safety in jeopardy because of my skin color.  I grew up believing that my whiteness had nothing to do with having access to benefits in society because I was surrounded by white people who didn’t see themselves as having resources that people of color didn’t have.  

 When I realized that my sense of reality of how the world worked was so different than people of color, shame and guilt immobilized me. I thought silence and hiding was the only way through these feelings. The depth of this silence still grips me because White conditioning has me want to be knowledgeable, in control, comfortable and approved of.  One lesson learned…. the best thing I can do with my privilege is to first be aware and awake to it and then to authentically speak about it, break the code of white silence.