Tré LaRosaComment

Confronting My Privilege & My Responsibility as a White Writer – Black History Month

Tré LaRosaComment

The cold, hard reality of American society is that its history has mostly been written by and for white people. It is crucial that we collectively recognize that this history does not accurately depict the most universal reality. We can trace the origins of this back all the way to colonization, where it’s well documented and recognized how Christopher Columbus and his co-colonizers treated the indigenous peoples with brutality, forcing them into slavery or just outright slaughtering them. Today, we witness people of color disproportionately affected by a racist “justice” system. Our justice system is one of penance, not of rehabilitation. It is one that prioritizes people “paying for their crimes,” as opposed to trying to ensure they are able to return and contribute to society. Our justice system does not make it less likely to commit crimes and it also makes it difficult to readjust to life on the outside, which explains why recidivism rates are so high. 

To delve into all of the causes and symptoms of a society dominated and catered to the white subset of the population is a Herculean task. It is also a disservice for me to simply write a dissertation of what plagues our society, what perpetuates our radicalized culture, or to write a piece that will never be judged by the quality of its words and evidence, but rather will be prejudged based on the belief system the reader holds.

I believe the best solution here is to explain my view and present why I’ve come to the conclusion that I have. Once it was clear to me how much I benefited from my whiteness, there was no going back to seeing the world how I had previously seen it. I believe that every human holds value, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender orientation, sexual orientation, perceived economic worth, or, for the most part, belief system. Still today, there are people that use dangerous and false racial science and physiognomic characteristics to justify white supremacy. I fundamentally believe that all humans are almost always deserving of our compassion, and when our society so disproportionately caters to the white population, that’s a huge issue in my eyes. The core belief that all humans are of value and the reality that we still all don’t have the same experiences in modern day America is why I have become so passionate about this.

Before I write about confronting my privilege in honor of Black History Month, I should make a disclosure. I hope to never imply that I’m done growing or that I’m any sort of expert about these issues. My knowledge regarding these topics is informed by black writers that I’ve spent a lot of time reading and learning from. I should also disclose that I’ve grown a lot in recent years, most notably since Trump’s election. I used to be a white moderate that would say things like “I don’t see race,” or “I’m not racist, I liked Obama,” or some lines along there. I used to believe discussing race was inherently racist when the truth is, we must talk about these issues to learn and become better. It took me time to learn about microaggresions and implicit biases that affected my interactions with black people; it took me time to recognize how my own experiences and lack thereof with diverse populations affected my perceptions. For example, I can remember saying to a black friend, “Oh I’m SURE you don’t like Trump” in what was the first time I’d see him in a long time. The fact that I assumed that he disliked Trump wasn’t entirely because he was black, as I was very familiar with his politics, but it was in my approach and my immediate assumption where it became an issue derived from implicit biases that I only later realized. I understand that calling somebody or a statement racist can be harsh to some, but prejudiced statements don’t have to be blatantly racist; however, they are often founded in deep-seated implicit biases that people most of the time don’t understand or recognize until they’re called out about it, and to that degree, they have deeply embedded racist ideas, to which that person will be regarded as racist to some.

All of this is to say that this is a learning exercise for me. I must acknowledge that I have the privilege to write about this in the first place. At first, I debated even writing this piece and producing this series at all. I didn’t want it to appear from the outside that it was coming from a place of white guilt. 

I have learned that one of the absolute best paths to progress is by amplifying the voices necessary to contribute to that progress. Part of being the best writer I can be is by sometimes acting as a megaphone myself and other times by helping to amplify other voices. My platform with my blog is not one that is very large right now, but I believe it will continue growing. As it does, I want to ensure that I do not crowd the conversation of issues that are important to me and society at large, but of which I am not an expert or one of the most valuable voices; I want to be sure that I’m ceding my space for others at times, even if that sometimes means me shutting up (something I’m actively working on all the time) and listening.

All of this leads me to this series and my passion for writing. I write because I believe writing has the ability to change lives and the world. Imagine a time you read something and got chills, or imagine a time when you heard a speech that inspired you to make a difference. At their core, all forms of presentation are forms of writing. My goals as a writer are to communicate about complex topics, to generate conversation, and to make a dent in the world. 

So, in honor of Black History Month, I am acknowledging and confronting my privilege and using my platform to elevate these issues. Instead of personally writing essays about the issues that I may have opinions about but don’t directly have experiences with, I am choosing to feature guest blog posts by some black friends so they can have the space to share whatever they deem to be fit.

Two of these friends are in medical school where they will discuss black men and women in medicine, science, and touching on social issues. Another friend is a former college athlete that will be touching on interracial relationships. One of the others will be a poem. These posts will stretch out to March because I want to be sure to give them the time they need to write what they want to write (also, they are busy people and I don’t want them to feel pressured to write anything too quickly that they aren’t happy with).

I’m excited about this series because I think it will give people the opportunity to read perspectives they’ve possibly never considered, and it will allow my friends the space to talk about issues that are pertinent in today’s age. 

If you’ve never considered your privilege or how you’ve benefited in a society catered to white people, this can be a daunting exercise. It can be something that forces you to perceive the world differently. I encourage you to read these pieces with an open mind and to seriously empathize with the writers and essays written. It is a learning exercise and it will take time for all of us, but I sincerely believe it is of utmost importance for us to understand how our microaggressions, implicit biases, and more affect those around us. The core message here is one of compassion. If we all live by the Golden Rule, the world will be a better place for everybody: 

Treat others how you wish to be treated.

Thanks for reading, and I’m looking forward to sharing this with everybody.

TL

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