We Must Be Better

My mother and I had a lengthy conversation about racism last night.

I said that all white people are racists, and it will take generations of conscious, active, hard work to even begin to eradicate it. She gave me her doubtful disapproving face because her experience belies that somewhat.

She does not see herself as white and has been on the receiving end of bigotry quite often. I told her though that she has spent my lifetime (she moved to the US from Chile three months before I was born) passing as a white woman and so long as she doesn’t speak no one would know she was not. It was her accented English and the company she kept, not the color of her skin, that always othered her.

I was able to convince her by saying if she had worked in an office when I was little instead of in retail, she would never have had to worry about making sure she had her green card on her at all times. I told her that she looks more like her European ancestors than like her Mexican friends and it was only being in their presence and speaking Spanish with them that put her in danger of the INS sweeps of the 70s and 80s.

She finally agreed and said she never really thought about it like that.

We then talked about how there are so many things we do and say every day and we aren’t even aware of their origin in our racist culture. Words like master (as in master bedroom), blacklist, peanut gallery, etc. The list is really long and could never do it justice here.

There are so many things I could write about on this topic, but I only have a short amount of time each morning. Suffice it to say, I know that though I would never intentionally do or say anything racist, it will take my entire lifetime just to dig out the top layer of all that has been ingrained and indoctrinated into my being.

So what are we supposed to do? Our best, until we know better. This phrase and it’s variations are becoming almost cliché, but I hope it never loses it’s impact.

We must be better my friends.

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