If you're reading this, you probably already know this-- but I grew up in a very small town. And while racism there is alive and well-- I didn't know that until late high school. In fact, I didn't even know what white privilege was until college. I don't mean that in an insensitive way, and I want to be careful about that because right now everyone feels a little sensitive one way or another. My mother grew up teaching me to love someone for their heart, for their spirit. From the first day I can remember, I was taught to love and accept everyone. We were a very open family. I don't remember ever needing to 'learn' that people were different. I knew each person was an individual. There weren't many boundaries with my parents. They shared their experiences and they answered all of my questions. I grew up knowing my uncle was gay. I literally never blinked an eye about it once. Looking back now, I had no idea how hard he had to fight to be happy and just be who he was, but I remember thinking he was the coolest person on the planet-- to me he was some kind of superhero. He got out of our small town, he sent me awesome postcards of his family and his cats, and he lived in California. To me, it didn't get much cooler than that. As an adult, he's even more my hero-- because he lived his life even when it wasn't easy.
As an adult, I wonder how many times I was so naive that I was being insensitive. I never paid much attention to how someone might view my life as privileged. I never had a single person tell me that I had been insensitive to their plights, to their adversities. I didn't have a clue. Sure, I knew there were cultural differences, but I didn't feel like I had been entitled... until my adult life. Especially now. I don't think I was ever confronted with a situation that really forced me to come full circle with it. I don't know if by being naive I ever hurt someones feelings, but if I did, I am putting it out here: I'm sorry. I may not know a solution to white privilege, and I won't pretend that I can possibly understand what you're going through if you're of a sexual orientation, gender, race, or religion subject to so much darkness these days-- but I can promise you empathy. I won't always understand, but I would love to try. I love learning, I love hearing views different than mine. Maybe I'm in the minority for that feeling, but I wouldn't ever be bothered by someone telling me that when I say _____ it's really off putting for them. Maybe being blissfully unaware made me a better person? Or maybe it made me terribly insensitive? I can't be sure.
What I do know is this-- sure all lives matter but that isn't what is in question right now. And the more you say it, the more you're ignoring the actual fact that the question here is how to stop making one life matter less than another. I've never seen a problem solved out of spite, out of hate, out of darkness. Respect one another, offer a helping hand, share the good. If you have children, teach them to open their hearts to all different experiences. I'm raising a child and while that scares the daylights out of me because of the current state we're in it also gives me hope that I can send him out armed with love and empathy for all types of people. Travel. Read. Volunteer. Educate. Never stop finding the light, never stop encouraging people, complimenting people, motivating people.
I don't know if writing this is 'doing something', but it's a reminder to myself and others. I'm not perfect, but I'm never to old to continue trying to be better.