As a white person,

For the last several years — and especially in the last several months — I have often found myself prefacing things I say with those words.

As a white person, I try to be conscious of what I read.
As a white person, I teach high school mathematics in the Bronx.
As a white person, I notice that this room is filled with nothing but other white people.
As a white person, I have a lot to learn.

In a meeting this week with colleagues who I respect dearly, I once again caught myself using those three words to precede a statement. Saying it wasn’t new to me, but my colleagues, who were a mixed-race group, good-heartedly laughed at me and poked fun. “Of course you’re white!” a few of them said. I laughed too. They were right, and I didn’t need to say it, but in the moment, before I finished whatever it was that I was going to say, I selfishly used a few minutes to reflect on why I feel the need to say “As a white person,” so often.

Those few minutes of public blabbering helped me realize that, on a personal level, using that phrase is my small way of pushing back against white supremacy. By uttering it so frequently, it reminds me that I am white and that I walk through this world with a white frame of reference. It helps me place my conscience in a white context. Before I open my mouth and say something that perpetuates racist ideas, which I have often done, those three words slow me down. They don’t stop me for saying or doing racist things, but they do remind me that my white privileges played a role in whatever it is I’m about to say.

Using those words regularly is also important for me because of how white supremacy works to keep white people oblivious to their inherent and unearned advantages. As a good-meaning, progressive white person, it doesn’t want me to confess my whiteness; my racial ignorance is a big part of what keeps it alive. For the first three decades of my life, like many other “good” white people, I was colorblind. I didn’t acknowledge race because I never had to. Race never affected my life in any significant way. Ignoring race was a personal choice that I never interrogated, but it was also the direct result of the socialization that comes with living in our white suprematist society. We swim in an anti-black, anti-brown culture and I do nothing but reinforce its racist norms if I refuse to speak of my race out loud. Having not done this for so long, I am disappointed. But it’s all the more reason why I find myself pushing the words “As a white person,” out of my mouth as much as I do. They help me break rank — however briefly — with white supremacy. Those words allow me to outwardly recognize my race, which white supremacy wants only to conceal.



bp

1 thought on “As a white person,

  1. PM

    Love this! Super interesting to hear this as a POC. Thank you for acknowledging your privelge! Not many white people do

    Like

    Reply

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