December 22, 2014

I'm not racist (but) ... and other lies we tell ourselves

I'm a white woman living in a white world. My life is pristine and crisp. But I think I'm enlightened. I participate in discussions about race and keep an open mind. Heck, I even told one of my black friends (because all us enlightened folks have black friends we reference as proof we aren't racist), that I understood. I even went so far as to elaborate. I explained in great detail how big I was for understanding the need to even the playing field, as I continued about my own personal experience. I was in college and applied to be an RA in the dorm. My competition was a black girl. Or at least one of several competitors. But she was the one who got the job. I remember the shock and outrage that she was selected, and not I. Never mind that 14 were selected. She was the one I should have beaten.

I explained this very sincerely. Halfway through the explanation, I realized, I. Am. An. Asshole. This from a woman who doesn't curse on a regular basis. But it fit. I placed an incredibly arrogant myopic view on my experience. I told myself for 25 years that I lost to a black woman. I comforted myself with false magnanimous declarations that it evened things out. I never took a moment to consider that I had been competing for a job with 13 other candidates. Only that I lost the the black girl. So I again repeat, I. Am. An. Asshole.

You see? I have sold myself on the assumption that white people deserve jobs and if black people get them, it's about quotas, not quality. I was so myopic, that I didn't consider perhaps I wasn't as qualified, or didn't interview as well. I assumed the job was mine. Because I'm fabulous and I know it.

Ha.

I recoil in my assumptions but embrace the chance to learn. In a time when we are barely openly discussing race, I am not going to miss my chance. I had an epiphany last week. In the middle of explaining to my friend how "big" I was for understanding that I had to take the hit, I realized what a jerk I was. I realized that my WHITE PRIVILEGE never had me consider that maybe I just wasn't the best person for the job. I am embarrassed. As I discussed my experience with my friend, I recoiled in shame.

This is the crux... I live in a bubble. I don't know what I don't know. This doesn't make me a horrible person. This means I need to recognize that just because it isn't in my realm, it doesn't mean it isn't real.

This means that it took me over 25 years to realize that I wasn't the best person for the job. Period.

Thanks, Staci, for listening to me and being my friend. I love you.
P.S. Happy Birthday, friend.

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