Discussing racism makes me feel uncomfortable

Charles Stremel,
Mission Viejo, CA

To preface, I am white, I’ve grown up well-off and never really had to worry too much about things. My parents divorced around my birth, but I was too young to even remember, so I wouldn’t even call that a hardship.

My views on the current topics that discuss commonly have swayed over the past year or two. I’ve done my best to listen to as many different opinions as I can, whether it’s from my right-winged mother, hardcore Tumblr SJW’s, my group of friends, and of course our lovely politicians. I identify myself as a moderate, but I wasn’t always that way, as I naturally aligned with my parents’ beliefs for many years until I began to think more for myself. I made casual jokes using stereotypes whether it was about race, sexuality, etc. Never out of malice, but simply because I thought they were funny at the time. On a deeper level, I’m not sure I ever really believed in those jokes, but I’m sure there were parts of me that were intolerant, possibly prejudiced, but most likely just ignorant. In fact, race was never really a thought I had until about middle school. As a kid, I just wanted to hang out with whoever I liked to be around, and I think there’s a beautiful simplicity in that.

I’ve since grown and changed my views, but I don’t feel like I am knowledgable enough to make any sort of statement, let alone have an opinion. I strongly feel that racism is alive and well in our country, one simply has to look up some headlines about police shooting unarmed black men and women out of “fear”. Then they aren’t even fired, or arrested. Or how studies show that applying to a job with black-sounding name will make you less likely to receive that job. Yet, I feel threatened to say that race has an effect on how you are treated in America. I’ve grown up with predominantly right-winged people who, while not blatantly racist, obviously have some bias and believe in stereotypes of people with different skin color.

On the other side, I feel that because I am white, I am not allowed to say anything out of doubt or skepticism because I will be instantly associated with racists. I don’t think it is every helpful to follow one side to the extreme, as there are always speaking points for both sides. It is not productive to completely shut out the other side, even though it may be tempting to because of feelings of anger or frustration.

I feel that what I am saying is kind of all over the place, so I will sum up my ideas. I feel that right now, people are too fired up and radical to be discussing change in a positive manner. I see negatives in both sides, and I feel as if I will be persecuted if I speak against either side. It constantly feels as if people (celebrities, people on social media, politicians) are telling how we should feel about things. Frankly, it’s exhausting, and I feel too tired to constantly be angry about things, yet even saying that I feel guilty. As if I have some responsibility to fix all the problems in our country, even in the world. I am simply going to do my best to be a kind person to everyone I meet.

At the end of the day, we are all just humans. We’re not really that different, but people want to make it seem like we are for whatever reason. It’s frustrating and tiring, but I think it would be in everybody’s best interests to practice tolerance and empathy.


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