White privilege was actual, palpable relief

Seattle, WA

The country we came from views us as bad and wrong. We were conquered, killed, and hated. Laws were made against us, we were disallowed to speak our own language, forced to speak theirs. When I say hunted, I mean there were death squads sent out by the government that took 21,000+ lives. The squads enjoyed themselves, howling, singing, and taunting people. They pulled people into town squares to make examples, and left corpses in place for days. Because we were other, we needed to be put in our place. Our culture was banned, our ethnic dress was banned, our lives were robbed.

There are factions who fight against the government, and because of it a beautiful homeland has become a barren battleground in some places. People shot in front of elementary schools, bombings, kidnappings, you can see people becoming the worst version of themselves because this war has turned them into it — and to the rest of the world this war is invisible. We do not make headlines because our country is small and our meaning to the world is not what it could be. Coming to the United States, I changed from being othered for my ethnicity to simply being White — and I cannot tell you the relief of it. I grew up knowing what it was to be othered under threat of violence or death, so when I hear white people in this country bring up reverse racism, or rolling their eyes at POCs it makes me shudder. It makes me bitter. It makes me wish I could show them my home and tell them “You don’t understand what that battleground is. All of the horrors that can be seen there is etched on my heart, but I was allowed to leave. People of color are not permitted to leave as I have and find somewhere that they are no longer othered. For them this battleground is everywhere. Because white privilege exists everywhere.

I was able to leave and no longer be under threat for my ethnicity. They have no such luxury.” and in that moment I both understood nothing and enough at the same time. Because while one soldier knows another, the battles they see are different than mine, and I cannot speak about race in earnest while existing in a safety they can never reach. Wars exist because communication dies. Shut up. Listen to these people. Stop being instantly defensive. That is how words escalate to violence. Violence becomes hate. Shut. Up. And. Listen. With your heart open, and your mouth closed.


Tweets by Michele Norris