White people like a whole lot of things about being white

Dear President Trump,

On this day when you will be an unwelcome visitor to the grieving cities of Dayton and El Paso I am going to return to reporting out more of what I learned at the People’s Institute’s Undoing Racism workshop last month. For someone like you it will seem like there is little to no connection between the hate-filled murderous rampages those cities endured (as did Gilroy before them) and the pieces of the workshop I will highlight in this letter, but for most other humans on the planet the threads between them will be abundantly clear.

I told you last week that we started the second day of the workshop with more history and going around the room to check in with all the white people about our takes on the PI definition of racism (racism=racial prejudice + power) and the propositions that only white people can be racist and that all white people are racist. I won’t repeat myself here since you’ve got those letters somewhere in your contact page archives and can deign to read them anytime you want. Rather, I will move on to the next thing we did, which was to go around the room to hear what all the white people like about being white. Once we got five or six people in, lots of folks said that they didn’t have much new to add, but it’s still a very long list. I’m going to include everything that was said because I think you need to feel the weight of it all.

I had to go first again so the first three things are my additions:

  • Being able to move about most places in the world without fear (at most times of day)
  • Not having to actively deal with race all the time
  • Having gotten to pretend I “made it” based on my own merit
  • Don’t have to fear law enforcement
  • Less likely to be murdered by police
  • See examples of self; see self reflected
  • Feel accepted
  • People trust me
  • Able to blend in, anonymity
  • Intentions not questioned
  • Familiarity with customs/rules
  • More likely to be listened to
  • Can go to any lobby and not be questioned (i.e., to use the restroom)
  • Easy access to benefits
  • Grateful don’t suffer from racial oppression
  • Economic standing
  • Able to buy houses in pleasant neighborhoods
  • Have money for education
  • Access to good schools
  • More opportunities
  • Freedom, power to do what want
  • Don’t have to give kids “the talk”
  • Able to interface with the world easily
  • Having a European name makes life easier (from a mixed race person)
  • Able to make a mistake and not have it reflect on all whites
  • Given the benefit of the doubt no matter whether quiet or loud

I know it will make for a fairly long letter, but I’m also going to include what people from other racial/ethnic groups said they liked about belonging to their groups.

Asian/Pacific Islanders

  • Culture and food traditions
  • Supportive, close family
  • Able to stay out in the sun
  • Automatically know a second language
  • Activism is integral to roots
  • Seen as “good immigrants”
  • Feel comfortable in community
  • Multigenerational aspects of care
  • Language that expresses honor well
  • Able to bring different perspective to white majority spaces
  • Different historical backgrounds

Latinx

  • Language and culture
  • Family bonds
  • Differences among groups
  • Being both white and Latina can bring either forward depending on who is in the room

Native

  • Different and unique
  • Acceptance within community
  • Spiritual ties to the land
  • Ancestors and their voices
  • Languages
  • Can always connect with all tribes
  • Beading, foods, ceremonial dress
  • Pow-wows, longhouses, medicine
  • Feel people’s vibrations

Black

  • Color of skin, hair
  • Who I come from (they were allowed to exist so could be here)
  • Strength
  • Spirit to overcome
  • Confidence
  • Power that frightens
  • Respect for elders
  • Age well
  • Food, music
  • Collective pride
  • Work ethic
  • Loyalty
  • Resilience
  • Humor, culture
  • How party, how speak
  • Creativity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Celebrity in some countries
  • Understand different languages
  • Soul in Black folks

This is already a very long letter so I won’t offer much analysis of these lists now, but even you can probably see that one of these is not like the rest.

May we all be safe out in the world whenever, wherever, in whatever skin we happen to have.
May we all be willing to reckon with the starkly different ways we are treated depending on our skin.
May we commit to resetting things so there are no race- or ethnic-related health disparities.
May we see that listening deeply to one another is the path to peace.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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