It's been in only the last few months that I've really seen the extent of the privilege that I live with. As well as the extent of racism that very much exists in this nation. And I draw some parallels between the racism directed towards POC and the sexual harassment and assault that I know to be very much present in the military. It's not that either are increasing. It's that our awareness of it has increased to such an extent that we--well, most of us--can no longer ignore that it exists.
As a woman who spent 20 years in the military, sexual bias, harassment, and (to a much lesser degree) assault was something that I fought and called out on a fairly regular basis. I experienced it, in various forms--from subtle to obvious--on an almost daily basis. I would venture to bet that most of my straight, male coworkers would be amazed at the many different manifestations in which it existed. And that is where I draw a (very faint) parallel.
I, as a fair-skinned woman of European descent, would probably be amazed at the many different manifestations in which racism exist and are exhibited towards people of color. Hell, I'm amazed at the manifestations that I *do* see. And this is why, with what I've tried to educate myself about and get educated about, I have said that I will do what I can, when I can, to not be a bigot. It's not easy.
Please, bear with me here. Many behaviors and thought processes are ingrained from childhood. It's the presence of both of my grandfathers who thought nothing about using terms like "nigger" and "spik" and "camel-jockey" on a regular basis. It's the mostly white elementary school that I went to. It's the childhood friends who all were white. It wasn't, really, until I joined the military that I interacted with and worked with a larger percentage of people who truly looked different from me.
I can only hope that we can remove this cancer from our midst. It's my hope that those, like me, who have an unearned privilege, use it to help those who don't. Maybe I can't defeat the racists in the country but I sure as hell can beat down any mental training from my childhood that is racist in nature. I can treat people as human and be wary of them only if they've truly done something worth being wary of.
To veer from general stuff to a more personal side...
One of the men I love is black. I don't love him any less or any more because he's black. My attraction to him isn't determined by the fact that he has darker skin than me but, really, I guess that isn't true. I love him because of the person he is and his skin being darker has made him have to deal with stuff differently than I've had to so, maybe, I do love him because of his skin color. It's a true statement considering that I love him for who he is and who he wants to be and who is working to be in the future.
The other aspect that makes this a little more personal or, at least, brings the point home regarding the level of crap that has to be dealt with by those who have darker skin than me is: children. I have many friends who are people of colore. Many of them have children. I cannot imagine...or I didn't realize how much more they worry about their kids solely because of skin tone. I mean, every parent that I know, worries about their kids...getting hurt, getting bullied, all the stuff that remember going through as a kid. BUT...there is that extra level of concern because their skin is "the wrong color" for many others in this country. I can't imagine being afraid that a child won't come home simply because they were "walking while black" or "driving while black". I didn't even know that was a thing. I didn't know there was "the talk" that people of color have with their kids. My neighbor is white. Her husband is black. Their two kids are a cafe au lait color. The oldest is off to college, in a big city, in the next week or so. I can't imagine the myriad emotions that she is going through: all the "regular" emotions plus the addition of being the mother of a "black" child.
Again, I see my unearned privilege and I will use it to work towards a more inclusive environment. I can affect only my immediate surroundings but, maybe, my actions will influence others around me who share similar privilege. I'll start small and go from there. Even something as simple and trite as not using the term "nude" to describe a color of shoes because *my* nude isn't the same as everyone else's.
I will do my best to obliterate racism and racial bias in myself.