I am super fucking white. I’m so white that “tanning” for me means turning a brighter shade of lobster. The sun and I are frenemies of the worst kind. And this skin color, in this country, is a “good” thing. It means no one asks me how I managed to achieve what I have despite my skin color. It means no one automatically assumes I’m a criminal or gaming the system if I happen to have things that seem, at first glance based on my cheap car or my raggedy clothes, to be outside of my economic bracket. It means that when I get pulled over by a cop for speeding or having a busted taillight, I don’t have to worry about not making it home that night—or ever. So I am the first person to say I can’t even begin to grasp what it’s like to live in the skin of a person of color in this country.
But there is one thing I can do to try and understand it: I can learn. I can educate myself, I can read history, I can talk to people of color and ask them what their lives are like, I can read books about walking around in black skin in a country built on their ancestors’ backs, built on their ancestors’ suffering, and in many cases, built on their ancestors’ pride. Pride that many white Americans assume only belongs to them/us.
And one thing I can’t do: I can’t stand in judgment of the anger and the unapologetic demand for justice of a culture and a group of people who make up part of this country that have from their first breath at birth been denied the same rights, protections, and opportunities I have. I don’t have that right because I am not anyone’s better, and I sure as hell have not ever experienced those denials.
The only thing I can do is listen to their voices, learn from their anger, and be prepared to do what’s necessary to change things so that this country is about equality and equity for every one of us. Because that’s what America means to me.