What does it mean to be racist? Oxford Languages defines racist as “a person who shows OR feels discrimination OR prejudice against people of other races, OR who believes that a particular race is superior to another.” I don’t like this definition. Why, because it forces me recognize that I am racist. I feel incredible shame saying that and fear of the possible pain it may cause. That definition includes a lot of “ors”. I am a person who feels prejudice, a preconceived opinion, about people of other races. These feelings exist as a result of my life experiences and influenced by society.
I grew up having black friends. In first grade I even asked one of my best friends, who was black, to marry me and I remember attending a biracial wedding (not between two six year old’s). I went to Howard W. Blake High School, a magnet school that adopted the name of one of two all black high schools from Tampa’s past. For those who have never heard of magnet schools, they were designed to encourage desegregation. They do this through offering highly desirable and selective programs so that students who live outside the immediate school neighborhood choose to attend them. The neighborhoods these schools are located in tend to be low social and since our systems remain so broken, many of the residents in these area are black. I choose to attend this school. I fought for two years to get accepted. How could I be racist?
My senior year I began to explore college opportunities. On my short list was Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). I was drawn to FAMU and wanted to be a part of their amazing music program, but FAMU was historically a university for black students. I was encouraged to look elsewhere because it ‘would not be ‘safe’ for me to go to FAMU. Instead I chose to attend a small community college and then the University of South Florida. Over the years I have had roommates, friends, professors, peers, coworkers, and neighbors who are black. Again, how am I racist?
Society has told me, repeatedly, that people who are black are riskier than those who are white. That is not to say they are dangerous, but they might be. As a result, objectively I know that race does not determine a person’s ability or character but subjectively my gut alerts me that I should be cautious. I hate that I am racist and I make a conscious effort to change my thinking and not allow it to influence my behavior. I work hard toward making systemic repairs so that racism disappears. I am committed to being an ally and helping to support cultural competency so that we can end these societal influences and racism because black lives matter.
I am no expert in race, racism, or black culture, but I am dedicated to learning. I will be making a greater effort to gain competency and encourage you to do the same. As I learn and discover resources I will share and reflect using this site. I encourage you to subscribe to my page so that you can take this journey with me. I stand with my community, not in silence, but in shock. We have to take off the blinders of ignorance and address the broken systems so that we can rise together. We need to have these uncomfortable conversations.