Talking about racism is not an easy task. It’s taxing, and draining, and it can feel like an uphill battle. Though, once you recognize the injustices in the world and you learn the ways the smog of racism has infected us all, it’s difficult not to feel a pull to try to help people right the wrongs in their thinking. It’s hard not to try to make people understand they’re thinking untrue, biased things of groups of people, that many others are thinking those things too, and that the targeted groups of people are suffering for those biases.
It feels like there’s no right way to talk to people about this issue. Especially considering the fact that everyone has different emotional appeals, and different subjects that affect them and will make them relate to the people they’ve been feeling biased feelings – perhaps hate – toward. And when you do put yourself out on the line to talk to people, in my experience at least, you’re very aware of every word that you’re saying and all the potential holes in your argument. You know that you’ve left some gap, some hole that someone who doesn’t agree with you will dig into to rip your words apart.
Our final class project this semester was to make our own podcast, a 20 minute conversation about the role of racism in a particular event or issue. Recording myself and two of my other classmates talking about such important issues was… terrifying. I felt like I was fumbling, constantly unbalanced and unsure of whether or not I was even making sense. It was hard to think that my words were carrying weight, especially with how absolutely unintelligent I felt at the moment. It was even stranger to think that, no matter how uneducated I felt in that moment, my words would carry more weight than a person of color’s words, simply by virtue of the fact that I am a white person, and society values my words more. It felt a bit wrong to be inserting my voice into that space as though I was an authority when I’ve never experienced racial discrimination.
Believe me, racism is a topic that I find extremely important. There are so many injustices that our society perpetuates that attention needs to be brought to. It’s a space that’s so difficult to navigate, though. One wrong word, one wrong phrase, and the person you’re trying to convince of these injustices shuts down and regards you as one of those “liberal nutjobs.” Some people are so buried in their prejudice it feels like you can’t possibly pull them out, but it feels so absolutely wrong to leave them to believe and potentially spread their misinformation and hate.
Fighting racism can feel like a full-time job. It seems to be everywhere you look, pervading every space. It feels like the elephant in the room. And on top of that, it feels like a topic that’s not allowed to be breached. That it’ll be brushed to the side. That you’ll be attacked for it. That you’ll be ridiculed. These feelings, I imagine, are tenfold for people of color, actually being the targets of racism. Especially considering that they’re assumed to be the ones that should speak up; and, when they do, they need to pander to the feelings of the white people in power – the ones who are actively oppressing them – to even attempt at a change.
How do we fix this? How do we create change when even some of the people that care the most are terrified of speaking out, in fear that they won’t be heard?