“If someone says a racial slur or says something and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe they said that,’ actually say that outloud to them. Do not normalize xenophobia, do not normalize anti-blackness, do not normalize transphobia. Take a step back and analyze why it’s there.” – Angela Peoples
The image is a stark contrast. Three white women in their fashionable J. Crew clothes taking selfies for Facebook and texting their BFF’s “Guess where I am?”. This is there Woodstock. A time and place that they will tell their kids and grandkids, “I was there.” But how will their story end? What can or will they say that they accomplished? That part of the story is entirely up to each of them. For many, they will simply go back to their comfortable and privileged lives. It will be enough that they were there, took a selfie and posted it on Facebook or Instagram.
When I look at Angela Peoples, the lady holding the sign “Don’t forget: white women voted for Trump”, in the sea of white faces and pink hats it reminds me that is the world that I exist in. I don’t have any friends that are black. I don’t have black neighbors. The church I attend is lily-white. In truth, my social and business world is completely void of people of color. But my question is, and the question I ask myself everyday, whose fault is it?
William Tell, a blogger that frequently comments on my post and whose insight I have great respect for, first shared the Angela Peoples story with me. William commented recently “As the term is used in my world, to be white is to be “racist.” Period.” I commented back “Thankfully William the world is bigger than the world you live in.” but honestly is it? Now that I think about it, now that I take a step back, my world really isn’t that big and it certainly isn’t very diverse. But again I ask, whose fault is that?
I am not trying to assign blame. I am just searching for some answers. For years I have simply chalked it up to where I live, this medium size southern city in a very red and conservative state. I rationalized that if I lived in a bigger city like Atlanta or Charlotte things would be different. My universe would contain more diversity. But looking at Angela Peoples standing there in one of the most heterogeneous and metropolitan cities in our nation I wonder now if my thought really is true.
In my heart I don’t believe I am a racist. But does my lack of having close personal relationships with people of color send a different message? Does my friendly banter with Rick the Indian at the convenience store or Henry, the African-American at the dry cleaners count? I don’t think so. Maybe it proves I am open to those opportunities or maybe it proves the larger divide between us.
Angela Peoples is sharing her story with us. She is encouraging us not to let it end with just a selfie. But both Angela and the J. Crew girls will need to make some adjustments. Yes there is a divide, in my mind a divide of culture, not just skin tone and each side will need to make allowances for that. Each side will need to accept some things while overlooking others but understanding there is a lot of common ground between us. The question is, are we willing to wade through all of the other bullshit to find it?