It's The Institutionalized Racism, Stupid.
I’m breaking my between-seasons silence for some soul-searching, hard-to-swallow self-criticism, and a recommendation of a podcast you should listen to. Especially if you look and sound like me.
The nation is on fire. Again.
All 50 States are seeing protests and civil unrest. Every night.
A lot of people who look like me and sound like me are asking, “Why”
But I'm not asking that question. No, the question I'm asking is -- at the risk of making this all about me -- “What about me specifically? What can I do right now?”
As it turns out, there are a lot of things I can do. But before I can do any of those things, it has to start with this.
I recognize and accept the fact that I am the beneficiary of institutionalized, systemic racism in this country.
As an almost 52-years-old white male, I have benefited greatly from the white supremacy that has been with us for at least 400 years.
That's a reality. That's a fact.
Like many, I wasn't raised with racist notions inside my home. In fact, even reflecting back now, I can't single out any family member and “the racist” inf the family. Though I know that my mom probably can, because they certainly existed amongst us.
I was born in Oklahoma and spent my teenage years in a very small town rural town. A tiny town that had no black people as residents. That tiny town also happened to be the county seat. A county that, at least in 1986, was exclusively white.
I don't search for some deep meaning as to why that was the case. I know why that was the case. Much of it -- perhaps all of it -- had to do with institutionalized, systemic racism and white supremacy.
I was steeped in it during my teenage years, arguably the worst time to be exposed to shitty mentality and behaviors. Some of the fathers of my closest friends were rumored to be card carrying members of the KKK.
So of course is influenced, impacted, and shaped by that environment of latent racial inequity. To claim otherwise would be a stupid lie. Of course that left a mark that lives with me today. I don’t want to admit to you but I have to admit to you that rarely does a day go by where my brain doesn’t have at least one racist thought. Usually as a joke. A dumb joke that, as it turns out, really isn’t all that funny.
I was steeped in racism growing up. Again, not at home or in the homes of family members that I can remember. But all of that changed the minute I left the house. It was around me all the time at every second of the day.
Even today, with that tiny town and those tiny minds some 35 years in my past, I’m still surrounded by it. Yes, right now. Because it’s inescapable.
If you look like me and you sound like me, then you too have almost certainly been the benefactor of institutionalized, systemic racism. You, like me, benefited and continue to benefit from white supremacy.
I understand that. I now own that for myself. There's a lot of things I can do with that understanding. There are a lot of things I will do with that ownership. To start, and with the permission of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, I’m attaching the first episode of Seeing White, a 14-part podcast that was the second season of Scene on Radio to the end of the audio version of this article. Click the player above or download the audio file from the link below and you can listen too.
I discovered the show last weekend and binged it all. If you follow me on Twitter, you know it's the only thing I listened to all weekend. Yes, it was that compelling. The show laid out, in most excellent form, much the reality I had missed about the history of white supremacy and institutionalized, systemic racism. An intentional pattern of behavior that I am a product of.
The truths Seeing White bring to light were not deeply hidden. All of this was known 35 years ago. It just wasn’t taught in my school. It wasn’t discussed in my house. And more importantly, it wasn’t anything I felt necessary to seek out.
And that’s on me.
Seeing White will help you understand the real reality of racism in America. I strongly suggest you listen to all 12 episodes. It is that important.
Because if you look like me and you sound like me, then you too are the product of white supremacy and institutionalized, systemic racism.
No, listening to this (or any) podcast won't fix the reality of racism in America. But it's a start.