Alison Treat | Thoughts on Racism . . .
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Thoughts on Racism . . .

Thoughts on Racism . . .

The more I read about it, the more confused I become about what exactly happened in Charlottesville last weekend. I was blissfully unaware, away from the television and computer for four full days. I think I only looked at my phone once on Saturday, and I missed the news somehow. After coming home, I attempted to piece together what had happened from the different perspectives trying to drown each other out.

Whenever racially motivated violence takes place, my heart aches. Sometimes I don’t speak up because I feel unqualified. I’m white, after all. How could I possibly understand what it’s like to be a target of racism?

I couldn’t. There’s no way I could fully understand something I haven’t experienced. But that isn’t stopping me from trying to understand. It isn’t stopping me from writing a book from the perspective of a black slave girl. I figuratively spend a lot of time in 19th century America, and sometimes I come across things in my research that bring me to tears. Often, I feel afraid to voice my opinion because I’m not a minority. But the other day I read a Facebook post written by my friend Timothy Huh and it resonated with me.

“I chose, years ago, that I would refuse to see myself as Asian,” he said. He said a lot more than that, but those words made me wonder if it would be okay to stop seeing myself as white. If I could just see myself as a person, an American, someone descended from Slovak immigrants, whose ethnicity and culture influences me, of course, but doesn’t render my voice invalid. He further encouraged his friends to be courageous, to not be afraid of making mistakes.

As a person of white privilege in America today, I have been afraid of making a mistake. I’m afraid that if I criticize the actions of someone of a different color, I will be called racist. I’m afraid to ask questions about your culture, because you might misunderstand my intent. I’m afraid some black people might be offended by my books, when that’s the last thing I’d want.

But maybe, as a person, as an American, I can just ask questions. I can make mistakes and accidentally offend people and apologize for it. Perhaps we can even disagree in a respectful way, without resorting to violence. Maybe I can love and respect each person as an individual while still noticing and admiring the specific features of my friends of different colors. Is there room for that?

When left to ourselves, we naturally gravitate to people like us—in opinion, in religion, in culture, and maybe even in color. It takes a conscious choice to see things from another’s perspective. To accept and love those different from us. I want to be a person who makes that choice. I like to think I’m already that person in a lot of ways. The person who accepts you for who you are, whether or not you’re like me. But I also don’t think we need to be silent about our differences. I believe we can discuss them with love.

My grandmother once told me, “You’re too afraid of making a mistake. You’re going to make mistakes.”

So here I am, putting myself out there. Adding my voice to the plethora of voices already weighing in on racism. Wanting to understand. To be understood. And I’m probably making a lot of mistakes in the process. But I guess now I think that’s better than silently standing on the sidelines.

4 Comments
  • Ellen machovec
    Posted at 17:46h, 18 August Reply

    Alison I loved reading your post thank you you reflect an enormous amount of tenderness,compassion and generosity through the words you put on to paper I too had been unaware of the events happening in VA I had to google it after reading about what occurred I was heartsick and scared there is such a lack of love in America such divisiveness emotions run high on both sides Recently Emily posted something on FB that was extremely volatile and negative about. Trump 99% of my extended family support Trump the backlash to her comment was vicious evil and upsetting People that I love dearly share such opposing. Views differences is ok but not going after the jugular and responding with such hate and venom I cried for days thomas is getting married this sep 24th I pray that the family will leave politics at the door It has weighed me down but I look to Jesus for strength forgiveness peace reconciliation and stand on god’s promise what Satan meant for evil God will use for good sorry I wrote so much a lot on my mind

    • Alison Treat
      Posted at 21:25h, 18 August Reply

      Oh Ellen, I think we all have a lot on our minds regarding all of this. I agree with you. The hatred people display toward each other is so upsetting. Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

  • Jeanette Levellie
    Posted at 17:07h, 23 August Reply

    I”m so glad I found this post, Alison. You showed a huge amount of courage to say, “I’m afraid, but let’s begin.” God is proud of you!
    I lived on the tiny island of Saipan with my uncle’s family during my freshman year of high school. There were many races in our friend-group and school. One of the first things my uncle told me was, “You know you have accepted someone of a different race when you can get as easily angry with them as you do a white person.” I was surprised, but it makes perfect sense.
    I like your friend’s–and now your–outlook, of simply thinking of yourselves as people. We are not defined by our race, but by what’s in our hearts.
    Love, Jen

    • Alison Treat
      Posted at 21:11h, 23 August Reply

      What great advice from your uncle, Jeanette. I’m glad you found this post, too!

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