The reality of racism shatters the comfortable (for white people) myth that the US today is a colorblind society which gives everyone an equal chance at everything. When that cherished myth of colorblindness is disturbed by evidence that racism is not only real but pervasive, many white folks get uncomfortable talking about racial inequality. I myself have felt extremely uncomfortable in discussions of race and white privilege when they have moved from an abstract level of “look at those images on TV” to “look at how this plays out in my own life right now.”
At first I thought that this was a bad sign, that the fact that talking about racism made me and others uncomfortable meant that I was doing it wrong, that maybe I should not do it at all. Best to keep it at a theoretical level, because real life racism in my friends, family, and myself made us all so uncomfortable to address directly that is seemed almost rude.
It is not rude to talk about racism, even though it can make people uncomfortable. Rather, it is long past time that white people begin to bear the discomfort of race and racism. People of color have had to deal with far, far worse than mere social discomfort. Blatant racist injustice in our law enforcement, judicial, and prison systems are just the most recent tip of the ugly reality of centuries of white brutality against people of color. Far from rude, it is an ethical imperative to talk about racism and bear the discomfort it causes us. It is the least we can do, especially because the rest of US society is designed for our benefit and comfort.
If you are a white person discussing racism and it makes you uncomfortable, then that is a very good sign. It means you are stretching, growing, and maybe even changing. Realizing the painful reality that racism is real and white people benefit from it in all sorts of ways is the first step towards recognizing white privilege. Once we acknowledge white privilege, we can begin identifying and naming it in our social environments. Calling out white privilege makes it visible, and much more difficult to ignore. It will make white people uncomfortable, but that is the only way we will have any real social change.
WHITE PEOPLE HAVE TO CHANGE in order for society to change, because white people control social institutions like the economy and government (Yes, I realize we have a Black president right now, but white people still control almost all of the rest of the positions of power so wealthy whites still pretty much run the country). It is time for us white folks to embrace the discomfort of talking about race, brave the unease, and use it to move ourselves and our entire society to a new, more equitable environment for everyone.