Are you living in a white country but not (completely) white yourself? Are most of your friends white? Do you think racism is no big deal? Do you think poor Black Americans only have themselves to blame? If so, you might be whitewashed. Read on!
My standard advice to the whitewashed (a work in progress):
- Know about:
- Spend time with non-white family and friends, especially those who share the same non-white background as you do. Do not cut yourself off from them. You will need their support and wisdom all your life. When they talk about racism, listen. Sure, maybe they are bitter, maybe they grew up in a different time, maybe they made some bad choices in life, maybe they lack your advantages in education and so on, but there is more truth to what they are saying than you imagine. The older people in your family have way more wisdom than you know. They have been down a road you will probably have to travel in some form.
- Make sure that not all your friends are white - it is great that you get along with white people, but when racism hits they will not understand, they will say you are just imagining things, they will play it down, they may even defend it.
- Anyone who uses racial slurs or tells racist jokes cannot be a true friend – not to you. They are racist, straight-up. They are poisoning your mind.
- Prefer books over film and television – especially books by people with the same background as you, especially coming-of-age books. If you cannot find anything by someone with your particular background, then go for Black American authors: they are easy enough to find and have plenty in common with all non-white people living in white English-speaking countries. Generally avoid film and television – they mostly teach internalized racism. See below for some book recommendations.
- Know your history – of people who share your non-white background. If you are full or part Chinese American, for example, then know the history of the Chinese in America. That might sound blah-blah-boring-so-what, like ancient history that has nothing to do with you, but the more you know the better off you will be down the road, the more you will understand what is going on.
Prefer books by people with your background, whatever interests you. Here are some books I recommend. Some of my commenters might have much better suggestions.
Gene Yang: “American Born Chinese” (2003) – graphic novel about a Chinese American boy who wants to be white. More profound than it looks. More.
Beverly Tatum: “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria”(2003) – how racism affects Americans growing up. She has sections on growing up black, Asian, American Indian, Latino, mixed race and white, presenting the current science. More.
Malcolm X & Alex Haley: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965) – his fight against racism inside himself and in America.
Thanks to Kiwi for suggesting this post.