Samantha Singer reflects upon an occasion where she witnessed blatant racism and remained silently awestruck. In this blog post, she shares how moments like these are opportunities to engage in conversations that could be transformative rather than complacent.
Growing up as a white woman in the south, the passive racism that I witnessed and participated in was and continues to be wrong. I want to change that practice and one step for me is writing a blog about how I handled a situation poorly and what I will do in the future to hold myself and other white people accountable.
Throughout college I would routinely return to Charlotte from Asheville, where I grew up, to visit my parents. Usually, I would be roped into a reunion of friends from high school around a bonfire or in someone’s parent’s basement.
“Do you remember Josh?” one elementary school acquaintance asked excitedly.
“Yeah…I think so. How has he been lately?” I responded.
“He’s started playing football at [insert large university], but he only sits on the bench because all the black guys are faster. You know that’s all they are good for.”
I stared open-mouthed at the blatantly racist and serious young man that sat with me. He went on to spout off more insults and profanity. He talked at me about how all the [insert racial slur against Latinx people] are taking his jobs. Sitting there, I continued to withdraw further into myself focusing completely on how offended and angry I felt. I thought of hundreds of insults to yell at him and I seriously contemplated throwing my chair in the fire. While my feelings were powerful, I could’ve used them as fuel to be brave and begin a conversation with him about racism. Eventually, he left and the night continued as usual.
Looking back on this incident I realized that I never thought about engaging him in a thoughtful conversation. I never thought about pulling out my phone and looking for resources to help me express my feelings of rage and hurt in a way that could be transformative for him and I. Instead, I remained silent. The reaction of silence when someone spews hate speech communicates complacency. White people find themselves in experiences where they could speak up against racism daily. I hope that by highlighting occasions where I have fallen short in moments of silence will inspire others to do the same in their lives.
If you want to learn about engaging white people in undermining white supremacy then check out your local Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter meeting. Find a local Showing Up for Racial Justice SURJ Chapter here.
Sam’s full blog post, Vocal and Visible: A Call to Action on Racism can be read on Spirit In Action’s blog.