Can you be Passively Racist?
I am a free-thinking, environmentally conscious mother of three grown children, and if you had asked me that question 25 years ago, I would have said no. Racists are easily identifiable, right? Racism, at least to me, was intentional and carried an agenda of focused division, oppression, and discrimination. That was not me — I made sure of it.
My daughter, Julianne, was born prematurely on June 19, 1997, and had to be taken immediately to NICU to be taken care of for a couple of weeks. Of course, I was very distraught, worried, and wanted to hold my baby. And, as soon as I could walk, I dragged my IV pole down to the NICU window to look at her. There were red hearts and balloons all around her incubator, and I had no idea why. Every nurse in there was a black woman, and when they saw me, two of them rolled my little bundle of joy over to the window to give me a better look. My tiny, three-pound baby was covered in wires and tubes. The other two nurses came out to hug me, congratulate me, and reassure me that my daughter was going to be just fine because she was “lucky!” She was the one and only “Juneteenth Baby” born that day at that small, country hospital, and they had rallied around her and decorated her incubator like she was a princess! In my complete astonishment, I thanked them, hugged them, and shuffled back to my room to whisper to my dad the question that I was too embarrassed to ask the nurses, “What is Juneteenth? Is it a holiday today?” To which, he shrugged his shoulders, having no idea. I flipped on the news, and there it was. How in the world did I go my whole life and not know this?
Fast forward to today. My “Juneteenth Baby” is 23 and still thinks she is a princess. I don’t know why I wasn’t taught about this holiday in school, but I made sure my kids knew. I often relate to stories like this sometimes when I am talking to non-Texans who assume I am a gun-toting, horse-wrangling, hat-wearing redneck because I was born and raised here (talk about stereotypes!). Nope. I have always walked to the beat of my own drum, and I love all people equally. However, it does seem like I have gotten a raw deal when it comes to lessons in American history. Now, like many others, I am still struggling to “rise above my raisin'” and fill in the gaps with my black and brown brethren. This is just one incidence of what I would call passive racism. Completely unintended but wrong just the same. Have you ever been caught speeding when you didn’t intend to but were adjusting the radio? Did you still get a ticket? It’s possible, my friends.
I challenge you to take your own inventory and ask yourself if you have any “gaps” in your knowledge. Are you informed about the true plight of the minority population of this country? Do you seek and uncover answers, or do you just watch a particular news channel and hang your hat on whatever “they” say?
Ignorance is no defense. It is our responsibility to be informed.
LEARN ~ KNOW ~ TEACH
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