Friday, January 23, 2009

It don't matter if you're black or white

Except it does.

The really interesting sociology class that I've decided to keep (along with my poli-sci class) is Race and Ethnic Relations.  It was definitely the best decision ever to keep it, so thanks for agreeing with me, guys!  This class is awesome- about 50 students, hilarious and down to earth professor with reasonable expectations, and a generally interesting topic.  Plus- it took me checking online four times a day for 5 weeks for a spot to open up, and when one did a few days ago, I snagged it ASAP because this is one of those classes everyone talks about.  You know... the ones where the professor has you do really cool activities like wear stereotypes taped to your back and people treat you how you "should" be treated, and you have to figure it out.  Or the one where you have those discussions where people get very deep, tears are shed, and you leave the class hugging people.  

Right... so needless to say, I am very excited to be taking this course this semester!

I got to this class early yesterday, so I sat down, opened my granola bar, and waited.  People began trickling in, and I started to notice that pretty much everyone in the class is African American.  Of course, that's fine with me... it just reminded me of a time not too long ago.

My freshman year, I decided to be brave.  For the spring semester, I signed up for "Intro to African American Studies".  I thought it would be interesting.  I thought it would be a great experience.  I was right, but I was also wrong.  That class had 60 students in it, and I was the only white person in the entire class.  59 African American students, and 1 white student.  I stuck out like a sore thumb, obviously.  At first, it wasn't that big of a deal.  But, as the semester went on, it became more and more difficult and emotionally exhausting to be in that class.

We would have these discussions about so many things, and I felt like I could never raise my hand and become a part of them because I felt this huge, enormous weight on my shoulders whenever I was there.  I felt so guilty.  I felt like I was representing the entire white race in that classroom, and I didn't want to say the wrong thing.  I felt ashamed to be white, ashamed at the past, ashamed of other people who share my skin color who still hold fast to those ideals that came about 250 years ago.  People were angry.  People were hurt.  People would give these accounts of racism in their lives and how they felt deep down about themselves and their family, and big fat tears would well up in my eyes and spill onto my face.  I felt so helpless and so answerless.  I felt like I wanted to come up with something more profound than "I'm so sorry."  Because that's still not right - I have nothing to apologize for.  I personally didn't do anything wrong.  

And even if I personally am not racist, even if I love people regardless of color, etc., and even if I do recognize the fact that I am privileged because of my skin color (even if I don't ever try to outwardly USE that privilege), I still can't fix this.  I can't change how things are today myself.  

I will never be RIGHT, because what happened in the past was so WRONG.  And that is what is so frustrating for me.  


Dan said...

i've been in situations like that before, it is truly difficult. keep us updated on this class, it sounds like a good one!!

Anonymous said...

i know it is not the same at all, but every party i go to i am always the only white person (it's what i get for dating a black guy, i guess). i never used to feel out of place until i found out how much a lot of african american's still hate white people for everything in the past. I can't really say "still" because i would be mad too, I can't really explain it, but I don't think I could have been in a class like that...hope you like your new one!


PoisonIvy068 said...

wow...that was an GREAT post!! Me and my boyfriend have racial discussions like those alot (he's black, i'm white)...and it really opens your eyes up to many things. We can't undo things from the past, but we can move forward and fix things for the future.

and her heart it is in ireland said...

Wow, that sounds like a really interesting class. It can be weird in any situation to be the only whatever, and to be seen as the example for the whole group. But the class freshman year sounded like a great personal learning experience, and got you to see things differently, but I don't know if I would have liked to be in your shoes.