Updated: Jun 11, 2020
The topic of racism has been flooding my awareness lately, much more than it typically does. And inherently, I just have to say, that there is an immediate level of guilt and shame attached to me admitting that to all of you. But, ultimately, that's my truth.
As a white woman, growing up in middle class America, I have never had to know what it feels like to be judged, oppressed, or in fact murdered, due to the color of my skin.
Although my family has struggled in various ways since I was a kid, I cannot even begin to fathom the level of oppression that a black person, or a person of color has had to endure in this country, since the beginning of its inception. I want to be clear that I cannot understand and will never understand. But regardless of that, I commit to being an ally of the black community and communities of people of color, by helping other people in my life, specifically white people, to expand their minds in ways that are necessary to the growth of our humanity as a collective.
With that being said, the blog below is my articulation of how I have come to view and understand racism, from a personal perspective. Alcoholism has been something that has affected my family and personal life in relationships since I was a child. And since addiction is such a complex and traumatic issue, I felt it could be a gateway comparison to get others (specifically white people) in my life to potentially see a new perspective of just how pervasive, alive and deadly racism truly is.
I invite you to read the ideas below with an open heart and an open mind. Those two things are needed and necessary if we're ever going to change this systemic problem in our world and in our country and in our communities.
I’ve been around alcoholism all my life. And for a long time, it was normal. Until I had a parent that pointed it out to me, who educated me on just how insidious and dangerous it really is, I didn’t understand the depths of its darkness.
Racism, to me, is a lot like alcoholism— it seeps into the fabrics of your life... slowly, silently, passively. It eventually makes its way into everything you do, every conversation you have and every relationship in your environment. For anyone who understands alcoholism on a personal level (whether you’ve struggled with it or witnessed a close loved one struggle, like me), then you know that an alcoholic will do whatever it takes to protect their addiction. They will lie, cheat, steal, defend and hide in the corner to take a few more sips of their vodka filled flask that’s hidden under the mattress in the bedroom, when no-one’s looking.
Just like an addict will do anything to keep their addiction going because they are ADDICTED TO how it makes them feel, so will a person who is saturated in and “drunk” off of white privilege. This happens often unconsciously, just like addiction does. But even unconscious behavior, is behavior we need to take personal responsibility for.
Here's the thing that I think so many white individuals still don't honestly comprehend: white privilege is so pervasive and alive, that many white people can’t actually see it— much like an alcoholic often can’t identify or call out their own addiction and will argue to justify it until no end. Why ruin the party with bad sobering vibes if you can keep the thickly laced white supremest cocktail going?
As a white person, you might not think you are a racist (and I'm not calling every white person one, either). But I can guarantee, that as a white person, you’ve participated in some of the following: racist thoughts, actions, conversations, interactions and even vibes that you've put out into the world and your surroundings. We have to acknowledge that even if we never meant to be racist, that does not mean that we don't participate in the long standing systemic problem, in some way, shape or form. Even if you consider yourself a decent person, this is still possible. I know (in reflection of my own thoughts and actions in my life), that I have done this too.
The truth is: Racism is alive and well. It’s in every fabric of every part of our being as white people. And if you can’t see it, then that’s a solid indication of your level of privilege and unfortunately, ignorance to it. Racism exists in the mental health system, the wellness world, the police system, the education system, the health care system, etc. Its evidence is alive in all of the systems that make up this country and yet, there are still people saying things like “but don’t all lives matter?”
Here’s an idea to expand your mind, as a white person.
Get sober from all the things that numb you out from truly feeling what’s going on in the world.
In order to make a change, as white individuals, we must make a decision to get sober from racism.
This is a conscious decision. And unfortunately, much like an addiction, needs to happen in its own time for each individual "addict". Hence why innocent people keep dying from pure ignorance. It seems as though, not all white people are able to look at their unconscious thoughts, beliefs and behaviors around this topic and that is incredibly dangerous as most of us know.
But here’s the thing: No-one gets sober overnight. And no-one gets sober without some form of kicking and screaming. So if you’ve spent the better part of the last 2 weeks being pushed to your limits of discomfort, recognizing all the ways that you’ve participated in a racist system set up to benefit only the pure white body, then understand that those were your racist withdrawals kicking in. Those, were your racism withdrawals of your old thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. The only difference is, alcohol withdrawals can kill you, but racism withdrawals will make you rethink your entire life, which in many ways, can be even more confronting than death.
LET IT HAPPEN. This is progress. And I encourage you to stay in "rehab" to unlearn these racist nuances for the long haul. I encourage you to stay on the sober course, even when it’s incredibly lonely. I encourage you to stay on the path of unlearning an addictive behavior, even when you feel lost, confused or unsure. Now is not the time to risk a relapse, or to get complacent, or to get silent, or to clam up in fear of doing this work "wrong," as I often hear white people say.
Why is this important? Because if you want to live a meaningful life of intention, then taking away all of the ways that we “numb out” and don’t want to experience life, is key. As white people, by not acknowledging our white privilege, we are numbing out and essentially, avoiding the truth of what is.
Instead of relapsing in this moment, I encourage you to...
Get more sober— even if it shakes up your world so much, that every relationship in it is shattered and rebuilt.
Get more sober— because it’s the path to love and healing the world.
Get more sober— because people’s LIVES depend on it. And it is not okay for us to argue this point at all.
Just like alcohol prevents you from experiencing true love and connection, it’s racism (and one’s inability to see its presence) that also prevents you from experiencing true love and connection.
To me, this isn’t an option anymore. And I say “anymore,” because my life has been cloaked so deeply in white privilege that I didn’t understand that just saying “I’m not a racist,” is not enough. That would be like a true alcoholic having a few vodkas around noon on a Tuesday, while telling themselves that they live a functional, happy life. That, my friends, is just simply called denial.
Instead, we must make a commitment to be actively, anti-racist. As white people, claiming that we are "not racist," is simply not good enough.
Racism, is an addiction, because it keeps you in a state of being “higher” than others, even though it simultaneously depresses your being. Alcohol keeps you up even though the crash is, at some point, inevitable. White privilege does the same.
Racism is an addiction, because it only cares about itself. It only cares about the preservation of feeling “comfortably numb” and ignorant of the pain deep within oneself and in the world.
I only wish, that my family had discussed racism to the in depth extent that we discussed alcoholism. And maybe if more white families did this in America, we’d live in a more sober country.
In my opinion, racism is an addiction.
And America has been drunk for far too long.
If you resonate with this blog, please leave a comment or hit the like button below.
And if you are a white person and want more information on the topic of learning to become actively anti-racist, I would encourage you to purchase the book seen here. "How to be an an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi.
I truly believe it should be required reading. And I hope it will expand your mind and open your heart even more.
Thank you for being here and listening to my words, thoughts and ideas.
I am sending you blessings and the courage to keep moving forward. -Chloé