Raising My Awareness about Racism

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Raising My Awareness about Racism

by Vanessa Wood
YWCA New Hampshire

Vanessa Wood

I write this post from my own perspective, experiences, and observations.  I’m a white woman and I don’t know what it feels like to be a person of color.  I was raised in a very privileged environment; I went to the best schools, had terrific opportunities, and skin color was never a cognizant thought for me.

I read “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh when I was twenty and it literally changed my life and how I analyzed everything around me.   Never before had I analyzed something as simple as a “flesh” colored bandage.  Every “joke” about a person of color was unacceptable; I couldn’t just stand by and listen to it anymore and pretend like it was not only okay, but funny.  I could no longer stand by and be silent about the differential privileges I had, whereas before I claimed that I didn’t really “see” color and that we all received equal opportunities.   This, in and of itself, is such a privilege of being white – you can be effectively “colorblind” and go about your daily activities and not think of your race even once.

For people of color, I’ve witnessed that the opposite is true.  Every time we talk about race, we turn to the person of color in the room and ask them to be the spokesperson for their race.  Was I ever asked to speak for all white women everywhere? No, of course not.  Even things that should be simple, like shopping or driving, can be made into an ordeal for a person of color as they are routinely followed and singled out.  Stereotypes, prejudice, and overt racism are everywhere.  People that I typically labeled as “open-minded” have made comments like “All Indian people are rude.”

While a comment like that isn’t comparable to the atrocity committed against Trayvon Martin, every comment holds power and significance and every time we don’t challenge negative comments, stereotypes, and beliefs, we are only contributing to the degradation of people of color.  When we say nothing, maintain our silence, and our colorblindness, we contribute to white privilege.  Thus, I encourage you to stand up, say something, do something, do ANYTHING, but don’t just sit there and be silent.  I encourage you to take a STAND against racism, prejudice, and intolerance everywhere because only through this will we see real and long-lasting change.  I encourage you to attend events near you that are part of the movement to promote racial equity.

The YWCA New Hampshire is having its own event to promote racial equity and to take a Stand Against Racism.  This Friday, April 27, we encourage you to come and see “To Kill a Mockingbird” and have a facilitated discussion about standing against racism.  Come and be a part of the effort to eliminate racism and challenge white privilege.  Every individual action against racism and prejudice is important and, in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.  For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

Vanessa Wood is heavily involved in volunteering in the community and believes in each individual’s capacity to make a difference in the world. At YWCA New Hampshire, she helps with volunteer recruitment and retention, free parenting classes, coordinating food bank pickups and childcare, and event planning. Vanessa is passionate about dogs, kayaking, and roller derby.

Stand Against Racism logoThis post is part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism blog carnival on issues of race, justice and diversity. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.

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