Not Member of Your White Club

FB_IMG_1447451188745Britt Verstegen,
Socorro, NM.

I grew up as a blonde, blue-eyed kid in an interracial family within a racially diverse neighborhood of inner-city Detroit. My step-father is Black and my sisters are biracial. Due to my family composition, I became aware of white privilege at an early age. For example, I knew in third grade why store employees followed my Black male friends while summarily ignoring me: they assumed I was an honest, safe, and kind child because I was white and female, and they assumed my friends were dishonest, dangerous, and mean because they were Black and male. Within my 48 years of life, there have been numerous occasions where I have been in the company of whites and experienced what I term “the white club.” This is when a group of 2 or more white people form an ad-hoc “club” with complete strangers and begin talking smack about people of color. I have experienced this from New Mexico to Alaska, Michigan to Florida, even in my travels through Europe. Once brown people are gone, (some) white people feel free to say terrible things about people of color. One example: back in the early 2000’s, I was standing in line at a DMV in a small New Mexican town. Three women were ahead of me, two white and one Navajo. When the Navajo woman left, the two white women – complete strangers to me – turned to me and began speaking of “lazy Indians.” Suddenly, I was in the white club. Of course, I had an obligation to correct them, so I said, “I am not in your white club.” I have had to say those words many times in my life. It is a persistent problem. If there is a race war in this country and everyone of color is forced to live in, say, Delaware…well, I am moving to Delaware, ha-ha. I want to live in an integrated society where people of all races and ethnicities are afforded the same level of respect and opportunity. So no, I ain’t in your damn white club. No.

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