Updated: Jul 14, 2020
I don't know what you look like, what you think about, how you act, how you talk, or how you walk, and, frankly, none of that matters right now. However, I have a little something to say to people like me.
There are a lot of people like me. I see myself in movie theaters, in advertisements, on runways, in nice houses. I’ve seen myself in history books next to the acronym “WASP” that sears itself onto the page: “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” Usually the term is spoken in a negative connotation, and for good reason. WASPs killed ethnic minorities. WASPs refused to tolerate people who didn’t act or look like them. WASPs trampled on marginalized groups for economic benefit. WASPs only cared about their selfish ambitions.
And so many still do.
The list goes on. In fact, Anglo-Saxons aren’t known for many great things throughout history. So many have crushed the innocent to build themselves a platform that still stands today. People like me will never realize the full extent of their privilege. We can’t pretend like the terrible things WASPs have banded together to do are only atrocities of the past. Doing so would only be falling into the razor-edged trap that produced them in the first place.
Everyone wants to be represented well, including me. I don’t want people to avoid talking to me because they assume I will judge them or turn them aside. I don’t blame them, and I don’t need to explain why. But I’d like to become someone who refuses to conform to the history of her skin.
This reflection is mostly a letter to myself, a reflection on the ways I and the people like me must keep growing.
To the white:
Hello there. Only a few of you will make it here out of the approximately 850,000,000 white individuals on Earth.
I don’t know why the white superiority complex arose. Why so many children in America's history started learning that they were "more valuable" and "more human" than the other kids their age working tirelessly in the heat. Today, children in our world still have to discover the cold truth that the beautiful differences in skin color they see on the playground will be what drive people apart as they grow up. When did we decide to turn up the contrast and sharpen our lenses to focus on skin color... just to dehumanize people? It's the worst mistake the human race has ever made.
Culture is important, make no mistake. People of different backgrounds live differently than those with other histories. While we can’t pretend that culture does not exist, we cannot keep separating people into strictly-defined categories of behavior, worth, roles, etc. based on skin color. People think that everyone is predictable—"oh, she's ___ so she must ___." Why must we draw such firm lines and jump to such hasty conclusions? In reality, what really is the difference between two human beings? The vast majority of our DNA is the same. According to Lydia Ramsey and Samantha Lee of Business Insider, you are 99.9% genetically similar to the person next to you. Yet, many people are 100% set on criticizing the 0.1% that makes us so wonderfully unique.
I began writing this blog post a few weeks before George Floyd’s murder under the knees of a white police officer. I am flaring with anger that racism permeates society so deeply.It was obvious enough before I started writing this post and now gut-wrenchingly clear. Hatred and racism are flaring up all around me. My heart aches for anyone who feels unsafe right now in their own beautiful skin. A staggering amount of people in my country think they are not discriminatory but are actually tearing down many groups of people.
Some very intelligent friends of mine were reflecting on this multi-faceted issue tonight. "I'm just so angry!" one said through hot tears. Her face crumpled with emotion. "I wish the colonists could be here to see the effects of their actions now. I can't believe they got away with something that ruined so much of America."
White reader, be angry. Be angry if your ancestors were slaveholders. And be angry even if they weren't. Please mourn over the injustice of history. Understand the anger within people you meet. Imagine how your everyday experiences might look different if you weren't white. Don't pretend like everything is fine just because Jim Crow laws aren't in place anymore. The laws are still branded into the actions of so many. Pour your anger into proactive activities rather than putting others down and simplifying every human being to categories of good and evil. Don't forget other hurting people that are being pushed around in America as African Americans fight for fair treatment. Ask people in your life who feel unsafe and hurt how they are feeling, what they think, and how you can support them. We are in a strange place and we carry with us a color that has churned other people to the ground for centuries. You specifically may not have, but you benefit from people who did, whether you know it or not. Let us do everything in our power to, from here forward, bear an image of humility rather than pride, never forgetting the horrors of the past and the present, continually striving for others' benefit.
Before you do anything, look in the mirror. And look at your heart. Figure out what needs to change. However, even while you are still educating yourself, don't be afraid to outwardly call out someone who isn't fighting for equality for, well, everyone as the word implies.
I'm not contributing anything new and noteworthy to this horrific topic. I just want to consistently remind my white friends and myself that every day there is something that can be done to make the world a better place. Every day.
To the well-off:
If you are like me in this way, here’s a statistic for you—1% of the world's population holds 50% of its wealth. HALF OF THE MONEY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD lays in the hands of the mere 1% of its people, many of whom live in “the land of the free.” That is insane. My lifestyle is different in more ways than I can count to someone living in poverty. I just happened to be born here. Who am I that I get to live a life enriched by so many things that come from having money?
Money cannot buy happiness: it’s a simple truth. However, money can buy opportunity. Unfortunately, so many doors are shut in the faces of billions of people across the globe every day because they don’t have the funds to propel them higher. Doors are shut to education and job opportunities and to the companionship of many people. People who must spend the vast majority of their time fighting to survive cannot pursue their wildest imaginations like so many people with more money can.
True peace cannot be achieved through the acquisition of money. In fact, I imagine that is extremely hard to find this way, since having plenty of money paints the illusion that even more will bring satisfaction, and aren't as concerned about living in the moment as those living from paycheck to paycheck. Yet there are people like refugees who spend their every moment fighting to survive. People like me, you won't ever be able to grasp what true poverty is.
World hunger could be solved with all of the money and food that are in the hands of human beings. But, the world is a complicated, uneven place.
So, what should we do if we are well-off? This is something that I wrestle with often and feel guilty about frequently. I think that gratitude and selflessness are two things that everyone should highly value. Why is it that those who have little are often more generous than those who have an abundance of things? They realize from experience that "stuff" and money aren't what feed their souls. We can learn a lot from them and share, not gluing our identity to the things we have but rather around the people we can share them with. Trust me—you will be much happier this way.
To the comfortable:
This kind of ties into being well-off, but I want to approach it differently.
We, the comfortable, take our ease for granted. No matter how grateful we are for it, we can still never truly recognize the magnitude of it. What are the odds that we are our unique selves, that we are on this planet Earth, let alone here to live in comfort? Life isn’t comfortable all the time, to be sure, but relative to most of the world around us, we are living in paradise.
I have never had to worry one day in my life about sleeping on a hard, cold floor or cramped with seven other family members. I have never worried about sleeping with my stomach growling or my feet freezing without a warm blanket. I truly don’t even worry that much about getting hurt. I do not have to spend my mornings stressing out about how to make money for my family or how to get enough food for myself. I can spend them either getting ready to go to a comfortable school in my comfortable car and be in a comfortable classroom in which I know I will be well taken care of.
Comfort is good. It recharges my soul for the difficult circumstances I will face in day-to-day life. Recently, though, I’ve been thinking about it, and I realize that sometimes it hinders me. It can hinder all of us.
What do we do with our comfort? I’ve found that the more I keep to myself, the less comforting it becomes. In order to truly revel in the comfort that I’ve been blessed with, I need to share.
The only reason we are comfortable is because someone has shared with us. Our parents set aside money to buys us nice things, probably like the device you’re reading this on. A professor or boss shared knowledge with them that helped them get and keep the job that gives them money. Even in my capitalist, individualistic country, we can still only survive by sharing.
Share time even when your schedule is packed. One night of bad sleep is worth it when you help out someone in your class who is struggling, with people who are having a rough night and need to vent. Share food at lunch with someone who is going to practice next period. Share your insight in a situation even when you feel like you’ve worked hard to get it. Trust me—you will enjoy your places of comfort more and you will enjoy the giving. I can't smash into words the joy I've felt while sharing. Seeing people’s faces light up at a gift and their hearts soften from tension when you give them your time, your ears, your heart… it’s an indescribable feeling. Our comfortable positions in life are gifts, and not something that should be taken for granted. However, sharing it makes the comfort we share even sweeter and more fulfilling.
To the Christians:
The world is full of so, so many divisions. Religion is something that has killed millions if not billions of people around the world. It naturally creates division. So what do we do about that, as Christians who want to deeply love the people around us? We humble ourselves before them and serve, serve, and serve some more.
Jesus got a bad rap with the religious guys during His time because He was always hanging out with people they thought were disobedient and corrupt. But one of the major points of Jesus's ministry was showing self-righteous people that they had the most problems to fix.
My first vivid memory of being totally confused by Christians was in my first year of high school, a time in which my own opinions and identity actually began to form (very slowly, though). My AP Human Geography teacher played a video in class that talked about climate change and the people who resist it. I was disappointed to find that the group that denied its existence was composed of Christians. I was honestly extremely confused. I couldn’t find a reason why they should oppose basic science. I honestly forgot their argument by now. A more reasonable woman in the video was shown visiting churches and presenting the facts to people, kindly and respectfully. I told myself I wanted to be like that woman in every situation.
Being a Christian doesn't mean you have to reject anything and everything that comes from the mouths of those who don't believe. That couldn't be more unproductive. The times in which I am diving into science are some of the times in which I feel the closest to God. The splendor of the universe and the minute inter-workings of the cell are things that blow my mind and leave me in awe of God; I hope that you don't have a gag reflex to science that makes you ready to tear down every new discovery. Be excited and curious to learn about the world!
That applies to other world views as well. Make friends from all walks of life and have deep discussions. Love them well and learn from them why they believe what they do. While your own beliefs definitely don't have to change, you may learn something new and foster a deep relationship with someone you really click with when you choose to broaden your horizons.
There will be different viewpoints in the world. And unfortunately, as long as this world exists, humans are going to offend each other. There is a fine line between being a people-pleaser and an immovable arrogant person, and we must try to walk on that line. Believing in something with all of your heart is a beautiful thing. But, don’t make this believing instill within you another belief—that you are any smarter or better than anyone else. We can be the change and regard others as higher than ourselves like our faith actually calls us to do.
What I’d like to say is this: our faith isn’t supposed to lift us higher. It is about lifting other people higher. Live a life that is self-sacrificing and be the example that would draw people nearer to you, not father away. No one is perfect, including you.
To the shy:
This section is different than the others. This trait doesn’t come from a place of historical power like the others do. Dear shy, dear quiet reader: you are no less valuable than someone who is known for and easily impresses others with the things they say and do.
This is something that is hard to sink in sometimes for me. I feel like I am not able to be loved, like there is less beauty, just simply less inside of me than there is in other people because I am often the quiet one in the room (when people don't know me, anyways). That couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because I often don’t speak about what is inside of me, or even identify and explore it, doesn’t make me a simple husk of a person. We are all deeper than oceans and it would take many lifetimes for anyone, including ourselves, to explore every inch of our depths.
Never believe that your past history of shyness or maybe even your current shaky confidence hinder you from being the bolder person you may desire to be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being quiet. It’s very beneficial to be the listener, to be wise before speaking, and to learn from watching and listening. However, I am also realizing that in this life, I should happily embrace what makes me unique and I shouldn’t waste so much energy trying to sweep it under the rug all the time. I shouldn’t crumple opportunities and throw them in the trash just because I’m afraid that I might fail. It's a cliché that you will hear many times throughout your lifetime. But, little-by-little, you can find your fearless. I love how Mary Schmich throws her goal out there: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’ve only recently tried putting this into practice and I am loving it. Maybe not in the moment, but afterwards. It’s like a good run. After you finish, you feel lighter than air and like you can do anything. Well, maybe not if you run like ten miles. Take baby steps at first. Start with things that are only a few paces outside of your comfort zone, but still actions that you wouldn’t attempt on a day in which you weren’t putting this into practice.
One last thing for the shy ones: don’t be too afraid of people! Easier said than done (I know). As we talked about earlier, you are hardly genetically different from the person next to you. Inside, you are wonderfully different. But ultimately, we are all similar in many ways. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. I really haven’t mastered this yet, but I can’t wait until the day when I am unafraid to approach someone. Why fear other people? It inhibits you from becoming the person you’d like to become, because other people are going to inhabit to the places you go for the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid of them as much as you can, but never lose your gentle spirit.
To the human:
I’m going to make an educated guess that whoever you are, you fall into this category. Maybe not. Hey there, random dog who stole the family computer… I see you.
This section is short. But human, you are worth so many words, more than I could ever write. An infinite amount. There are no words beautiful and meaningful enough to encapsulate your worth. No matter what elements culminate to make you you, you are so beyond lovable it’s not even funny.
Who knows if you are anything like me. No matter who you are, I encourage you to take steps every day to be a more loving, self-sacrificing, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and community-oriented individual. I'll be trying to take those steps alongside you.
If you’re reading this and you’re nothing like me, hi! Nice to meet you! You are worth so much.
If you’re reading this and you’re everything like me, hi! Nice to meet you! You are worth so much.
Read that again and take it to heart.
I’m not usually opinionated. I think that everyone, no matter who they are, can take steps to love the people around them a little more and think about themselves a little less each day. There are many more facets to me than I have listed here. These are just some of society's categories I fall into and wanted to reflect on.
In short, people like me: you are probably very different from me outside of these labels, but we both have work to do. Let's all bask in the beauty of our differences rather than trying to create a divided world or one that is determined on squashing all diversity.
And everyone, remember—even if the people around you and the place you live in don't feel like home, this is a place where you can find a shelter for your heart, no matter what boxy house the world says you should live in.