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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