As someone who was able to go to college to earn a Masters in Professional Writing, and someone who tends to have clear opinions and the ability to openly write what is on her heart – the past week I have been searching for courage to write, the right words.
And maybe that right there has been what is paralyzing, creating the right words. So I’m going to share with you how I’m working to try to better educate myself, better understand and recognize my white privilege and continue to foster and support an inclusive environment and world for my BIPOC friends.
I grew up in a rural, conservative and predominantly white area. I heard the n-word on the playground in elementary school. I heard classmates tell racist jokes in the halls of high school, in the cafeteria and at parties. (Some of those people today still share the same ignorant and hateful views by their Facebook feed.) And now that I’m recalling memories, I also remember an incident where a white male in high school was rumored to want to bring a metal pipe to school to cause harm to a group of black students. Wild, now that I’m thinking about it.
On the flip side of that, I also grew up playing sports. My particular cup of tea and love for that matter was competitive AAU basketball. My team played together from about age 8 through 19 and for many years was predominantly black. I like to think that we grew up together, because in a lot of ways we did. I didn’t know it at the time, but I wasn’t just learning the fundamentals of a sport or the value of teamwork, I was also understanding and witnessing direct racism.
I’ll brag a little, because our team was good. Like real good. We were contenders for the state championship many times over the years and went on to play at a national level and were even invited to college tournaments for recruiting. Many of my teammates went on to play college basketball and one even played professionally overseas – we were that kind of good.
Talented girls who worked their asses off to be successful. I remember though parents from opposing teams complaining from the stands that we were “too black” which I can only assume meant too good. Or it wasn’t fair that this black girl was so good. I remember teammates sharing their experiences with racism even though that wasn’t the point of the conversation, they were sharing stories from their everyday lives.
For the most part, I felt like my childhood was split: rural (read as farms + acres of land) conservative white community + urban (read as suburbia + strip malls) liberal BIPOC basketball community. I had friends in both of those communities, but rarely did the two interact. I wonder now if that was purposeful on my part, a way to protect my teammates that I loved so much from being exposed to unnecessary ignorance from people I also at the time cared about. I’ll have to think about that some more.
I realize I’m stopping my story at the high school level, and obviously racism hasn’t stopped. I wanted to share that as an adolescent white female, racism was introduced to me in two ways. 1. As normal and “non-existent”, quick and cheap way to deliver a joke about a person’s skin color to get a laugh in a room and 2. Through the experience of my friends on my team.
Pretty conflicting experiences for a child to be able to decipher and digest. As an adult, I used to think up until recently that I wasn’t racist or I was a strong supporter of the black community and now BIPOC. I am afraid though, I wasn’t. I am understanding that I was conditioned to tolerate black racist jokes, jokes that I never found amusing – that are hurtful to an entire community. Why didn’t I say something more than, “that’s not appropriate or you should know better.” Why didn’t I take a stronger stance? All questions and feelings I’ve been sitting with recently. I feel disappointed that I haven’t forced myself to be a bigger disruptor in systemic racism.
So let me be very, very clear so there is no false interpretation. I am and have been a supporter of #blacklivesmatter and I will continue to be a supporter and ally for BIPOC and their communities.
I have been absorbing articles on my newsfeed and expanding that to research to better educate myself on the needs of the BIPOC community. As well as better understand white privilege, I know personally it took me a while to grasp and understand what it meant as a whole. And while I am sitting through some hard feelings (right now) like embarrassment and shame, I know that the black community has felt pain and oppression both emotional + physical for hundreds of years.
I am sharing a few resources that have helped me better understand the systemic racism laid at the foundation of our country and my white privilege. I hope that you’ll take the time to explore them, sit with the feelings, reflect and join me in conversation.
13th – “thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.”
My Friend Asked Me to Explain White Privilege
White Fragility – Adding to my reading list
A list of black photographers covering the protests:
I haven’t shared much socially, but that will stop today. You’ll see in my stories things shared from accounts that I’ve been learning from, feeling from and more.
This should absolutely go without saying, but I want to state it plainly:
KRYSTA NORMAN PHOTOGRAPHY DOES NOT SUPPORT OR TOLERATE RACISM. I WILL WORK TO CONTINUE TO MAKE MY BUSINESS AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH I CREATE, A SAFE AN INCLUSIVE SPACE FOR INDIVIDUALS AND COUPLES WISHING TO DOCUMENT AND CELEBRATE THEIR LIFE STORIES.
I hope that I was vulnerable and humble enough to share. I am still learning and working on recognizing my own privilege, understanding how to be a better ally and supporter. I am seeking opportunities to learn, have open and honest conversations as well as opening myself up as a safe place for my BIPOC friends to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings.
p.s. To continue to clarify, because I know this will get brought up in comments. Just because I support Black Lives Matters does not mean that I am anti-police. I come from a family that serves within a department and have served many clients + friends who work on various forces.