How disagreement can cause tension in a close-knit family.
My family is temporarily at odds over social media posts. I say temporarily because I know we love each other, and we will work through it. I have three siblings, and we all use Facebook regularly. On birthdays, we are those people who write sweet posts about how much we love each other and how lucky we are.
We share a lot of positive things on Facebook. But, as most people know, Facebook can be very polarizing.
Recently several family members have stated they would delete Facebook or limit their use. This is in response to disagreements about posts family members found offensive.
Since there is disagreement amongst my siblings and hurt feelings, my father has stepped in and stated social media might very well be the country's downfall. He didn’t suggest we avoid it, but he basically asked us to avoid upsetting each other on Facebook. This is all he wants for Father’s Day. I still have a few weeks until then, so this is my response.
Our parents are from Arkansas & Oklahoma and raised us in a Freewill Baptist church. We didn’t live in poverty, but we weren’t really wealthy. We all ended up doing well in life and are now in the middle class's upper end.
We are white but have a diverse family, which includes biracial members. Our family members work in law enforcement, construction, healthcare, education, and business.
As a child, I heard both of my grandfathers make racist comments, but I never felt my immediate family members were racist. I had never heard of white privilege. I was raised as a conservative.
At our church, we had one black couple, Brother & Sister Moss. I wasn’t sure how or why they ended up coming to our church, but I loved them. I probably thought having them as church members meant we weren’t racist. I never thought about how hard it might have been for them.
I can’t recall my parents ever making a statement I thought was racist. I knew there were bad parts of town I didn’t feel safe in. I understood anyone could be successful if they tried hard enough.
I knew about slavery but didn’t understand why we were still being blamed since it had ended over 100 years ago. I had no clue Sister Iva Moss only gained the right to vote a few years before I was born!
If I saw someone “scary” at an intersection, I locked my car door, but I never admitted that one definition of scary was a large black man. I didn’t know what profiling was, but I’m sure I did it regularly.
Over time, different life experiences changed some of our views, and some of us became acquainted with the concept of white privilege. I can’t speak for everyone, but this was a difficult and painful process for me.
Like many white people, I was reluctant to accept I had biases and regularly committed microaggressions.
I was enrolled in a graduate counseling program and became aware Social Justice was part of our ethics code. I couldn’t see myself as an activist, and if I am 100% honest, I felt there were individuals in society who took advantage of welfare programs and didn’t try hard enough to better themselves.
I took my cultural diversity class in mid-2017 and I slowly started to see things I had been blind to my entire life.
As a white person, I have always maintained my distance from white privilege, white supremacy, and racism. I was a good person, and I did not want to be associated with those terms.
My views did not change overnight.
The biggest changes probably happened after I began my practicum at a counseling center that only sees Medi-Cal clients. I realized that the deck is stacked against many people before they are old enough to realize it.
I can’t change the fact I was blind to racism in the past. I now see many of my views and actions are commonly viewed as racist.
The only thing I can do is attempt to be better.
Part of being better includes using my voice to start a conversation with other white people. I’m not trying to educate them. I’m trying to raise awareness of things we have been conditioned to be blind to.
If I see friends or family posting things that could be interpreted as hateful, I’m not going to stay quiet about it. I know that I can’t change everyone’s mind.
White people have privilege in American society because of things that happened over the course of hundreds of years. We are not going to change this overnight.
A few days ago, I began a dialogue with one of my cousins. This started with some family drama. Instead of hiding from it, I shared my opinion, and my cousin was open to listening.
I shared a Facebook post I had read about a black man who is afraid to walk in his own neighborhood without his daughters. Shola M Richards feels he would be viewed as a threat without his daughters, and their presence makes it look like he belongs.
I also pointed out that if a white person buys a flesh-colored bandage, it will generally match their skin color. With these two examples, my cousin began to see something they had been missing. They started asking other questions, and we have had some good conversations. This is the kind of interaction I hope to have with people who don’t understand what I post.
I have no illusions about changing everyone’s mind. This essay opened my eyes, so I will continue to share examples from it and other examples I encounter. I considered my dad’s prediction social media would be the downfall of the country.
I love my dad, and I’ve always been obedient. But if social media is going to destroy our country, you better believe I’m going to stay on it and do my part not to allow that to happen.
I will be respectful and am happy to listen to anyone’s beliefs or opinions, and then I will share mine. Change happens one step at a time. Be the change. Do better.