Reflection: Increasing My Understanding of Race

As a white person, I have recently become increasingly aware of how much privilege I have. Growing up, racism was not something I thought about much. I grew up in a very homogeneous area. In elementary school, I was the “token minority” because I was Jewish, which in hindsight is absurd. I did not make my first black friend until middle school, and even after that, the vast majority of my friends were white. I did not think about racism because I simply did not have people in my life whom it negatively affected. Over the past several years, I have become much more aware of experiences outside of my own, but I know that I still have a lot to learn about race-related issues. This week’s discussion of W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk opened my eyes to some new ideas about race and racism that I had never thought about before.

Our discussion of Du Bois’ “racial awakening” was really eye opening for me, because I had never thought about what it must be like for young children of color to first discover racism. In an effort to relate, I found myself thinking about the moment I realized I was bisexual and my process of coming to terms with what that would mean for me in today’s society, but I quickly realized that these were two very different situations. I came to that conclusion myself as a young adult. For Du Bois and other children of color, other people told them when they were very young that they were “different.” I cannot even imagine what that must be like. Prejudice is hard enough to understand now; I cannot imagine how hard it must be to understand as a young child.

I also found the topic of “double consciousness” really interesting. I do not think I had ever heard of this concept before, or if I had I am sure I did not understand it. Even now, I find it slightly difficult to wrap my head around, probably because it is not something I have any personal experience with. I think Dr. Kendi’s talk last semester helped me understand it a little better; the idea of seeing oneself through someone else’s eyes reminded me of when he discussed how he had internalized racist ideas and had begun to believe those things about himself. I also thought the idea of black people having a “second-sight,” allowing them to have a deeper understanding of the truth, was really interesting and very true. Like I said, there is a lot about race issues that I do not understand. I hope that by the end of this class I will understand better, but I realize that I will probably never understand fully, since racism is not something I ever have or will ever have to face.

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