The Racist in Me

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Deep down, I think we’re all a little racist. It doesn’t matter where we have lived or who we have known – a part of us clings to sameness. Differences, after all, mean discomfort.

If you are white and move to the Deep South, two options present themselves:

Choice #1: Discover your sin and turn away from it.

Choice #2: What sin?

During our first week as residents in Southeast Georgia, I visited our local Walmart at least five times. One instance in particular still resonates with me.

I was impatient, gross, and eight-months pregnant, and the last place I wanted to be was standing in a line – swelling. The woman in front of me, however, was in no rush to empty her cart. I started losing my cool, at least internally. Then the customer handed our cashier the final straw: a WIC check.

If you have ever served behind a grocery store register, you probably also loathe WIC vouchers. Items selected by the female patron often don’t match those on the check; one of the products may require a manager’s approval (e.g. formula); and the whole transaction takes 2-3 times longer than usual.

I counted not one, not two, but THREE gallons of milk on the belt, which could only mean one thing: babies – lots of babies. Oh, how lovely it would have been if my mind had stopped there. But I kept going. She was African American, and she looked to be no older than 35-years-old. Her finger held no ring.

[Insert judgmental stereotype here]

In my moment of weakness, all I could do was stare – that is, until I heard the woman speak. Not only did she have an adopted child, but also two foster children in her care. I felt my pride collapse.

As I studied her face – and pondered my own feelings of inadequacy in being a new mother – she no longer resembled the stereotype I had envisioned:

Instead of poverty, I saw fatigue.

Instead of neglect, I saw love.

Instead of race, I saw humanity.

By putting her into a mentally constructed box, I tried to make my own existence easier. The result? I unknowingly built the walls around myself.

The little boy I once carried in the Georgia heat is almost three now, and I remain inspired by a stranger who – in selflessly opening her heart, purse, and home – challenged me to love others without condition.

And the discomfort that we all try so desperately to avoid? It makes us better. The race we are running should be together – as brothers and sisters, as humans, as equals.

And, if there be any defeat, let it be the racist in me.

::today’s daily inspiration::

29 thoughts on “The Racist in Me

    1. Thank you for your encouragement. A very difficult post to write, but the honesty needed to be expressed. My little ones remind me I am still a work in progress. Thank you for understanding (and appreciating) that 🙂

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  1. I think you put your finger on it there. We are taught to see not human beings, but people who belong to a group, and for each of those groups we have a mental check list. We have to learn to look beyond the received ideas and judge each individual on their merits.

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    1. I agree, and we can’t let our own history or fatigue (i.e. motherhood) get in the way of loving those around us. I think taking a moment to consider if we have constructed a box for others is the first step in change! Thank you for your thoughts.

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      1. I had a similar experience to yours. It’s made me tell myself every time I have an automatic thought about someone, that there’s more to that person than the slob who drops his beer cans on the pavement 🙂

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    1. “We are all the same but moving” – loved that line from your post!

      I’m glad you felt a connection. It isn’t easy to admit when we are wrong, but it is healthy and important if we want our actions and words to be life-giving. Thank you for your words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re most welcome. And thanks for taking the time to read my post. Admitting that we are wrong and apologising eases the burden we bear in our hearts… and opens us up for more love. Your post was relatable. Cheers! 🙂

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  2. I was a little scared of opening this post when I read the title. But I gotta hand it to you, I’ve learnt such a beautiful message and I want to thank you for putting your experience to words. An amazing use of the prompt.

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    1. Thank you. I’m glad that (1) you read the post and (2) that you enjoyed my reflection. I think the very word “racist” evokes strong emotions in all of us. My hope is that as a society we will find a way to embrace honesty. Because in that vulnerability, there is beautiful surrender that confesses we need each other.

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  3. Sayl

    Really interesting post. Though, I am not racist. I don’t think we are different in the way that we all are human. Physical traits I believe is amazing, beautiful and unique. I don’t care if you “look” different. All I care about it your bouncy and entergetic personality. You’re blooming into a beautiful and talented human. I love your insight on differences. I know what you mean but if you really think about it;each and every one of us are different. No one has the same exact skin color. You’re just…you. 🙂

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  4. This is really interesting. I teach sociology and you raise a lot of important ideas here. I am aware of biases against me as well as biases I have, or at least I try to be aware. Like you, I understand that the work is a never ending deconstructing process. Having been a single mom–but white—who had WIC many years ago, and food stamps–the kind you pulled out, I was very aware of the judgments from others from the cashiers to the customers waiting in line. I actually got so upset about the treatment from a cashier one time that I left the groceries on the belt and went home crying, then wrote a letter about it. Maybe I will blog about that, thank you for your blog and for writing on this important topic. Are you familiar with Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege Article? You probably are.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts here. Yes, the work to fix oneself is never-ending, especially when motherhood ever so gently inspires it at every turn. When I worked as a cashier, it was less about the judgment of the woman’s condition (I grew up in VERY white Appalachia, so few racial differences and most people in the community were low-income) and more about the inconvenience of the whole WIC purchasing process. My heart aches for your experiences. I wasn’t familiar with McIntosh’s piece, but I was able to read it just now – such truth. I’d like to see us take the next step and make societal/cultural changes that actually say “choose love”.

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      1. Oh yes, I understood that your comments were more about the inconvenience of the WIC process. In fact, I believe that is why they changed the way people paid with food stamps. In the old days, people had to pay with those coupons, and even that was a longer process as it involved pulling them out of the books and then the cashiers were supposed to check to make sure they matched the numbers from the book they were taken out of. This had the result of making other customers and cashiers frustrated because it took more time and it really put people who were poor on display, so they were not only holding up the line but in a position to be more judged than they/we are already. I have had students who also have validated what you wrote here, i.e. cashiers who were students said that they too judged people for their purchases, especially since they were not making much money themselves, and students have admitted having classist thoughts while waiting in line, and students who have had food stamps can identity with the pain of being judged, you can feel the eyes boring in your head even if no one says a word. Nonverbal communication is so powerful. I am glad you were able to read McIntosh’s piece. It would be nice to see people choose love although I am not so sure everyone is interested in deconstructing their learned ways of seeing to create a more loving space. It is good to know you are out there! 😉

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      2. I think that’s the beautiful thing about writing. If you let your fingers “bleed” long enough, you will find that there is an entire lifetime that waits for healthy deconstruction. Or at least that has been my experience 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

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  5. Wow this was really good. It’s crazy because I’ve had an idea of a self perspective type post too. The challenge for me is a writer is to be aware of my tone. I’ve had some experiences as a African-American male that I still have tucked away. So the challenge for me is not let that anger overtake my tone cause I don’t want it to be that. I enjoyed your piece tho.

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    1. Thank you. It was one of the most difficult pieces I have written, but I think honest perspectives are needed now more than ever. I think you, too, will find the right words one day. Would love to read more about your perspective!

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  6. Pingback: The Nudge Wink Report – A Round Up Of The Weirdest & Funniest News Headlines This Week Ending 9th July 2016 | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  7. Great post, May be with all the horribleness in the world – may be we all need to ask – what is the meaning of evolution ? and ask ourselves – have I evolved? we are one family. But our own weakness make us do horrid things. Oh I pray we become loving,caring and nice to all – nationally and globally.

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  8. Russ Thorne

    This is really bold, articulate writing, and so important right now. Brave of you to open up the uncensored workings of your heart for all to see, we could all use a reminder that we’re in a never-ending process of putting ourselves together through trial and error.

    Liked by 1 person

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