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Walking in Black Shoes

January 8, 2009

I’ve been composing this post in my head for three days now. I’m going to write it tonight and I’m going to fumble it a bit. I write this humbly because I know no other way to discuss issues that rock us at our cores. Be patient with me. Be kind and accepting, okay?

As you probably know, I began my new job this week. It’s a brand new office, so my coworker and I spent the first day unpacking boxes, moving furniture, setting up the computers, etc. Our boss is still out of town training so for now it’s just me and Coworker. Once Boss is back in town, our office will be complete… something I was not expecting. Just the three of us will occupy this particular office. I think it will be nice, we’ll get to know one another, hopefully become somewhat close. Just three women working for The People.
But I’m insanely nervous.
I’m the only white girl.

This is new to me. I grew up in what was nearly an all-white neighborhood. I had one black friend in the third grade but she moved. My high school was predominantly white, but there was a black family that did theatre and I got to know them a bit. I remember the oldest sister was so outraged when she was typecast as Tituba (the slave) in The Crucible my sophomore year but I didn’t quite understand it. My private Catholic college was even whiter than my high school. I knew a couple of the black girls and they joked about being the token black girls. And my previous job included mostly white Jewish people… zero racial minorities.

In other words, I grew up in a white bubble.

I discussed racial inequality in countless classes. I read so many articles about the race issue in the United States. I’ve talked civil rights until I was blue in the face. But, truth be told, I’ve never practiced what I’ve preached. I’ve never had to. I’ve always preached social change to a white choir. I’ve never been in a truly racially diverse environment.

What bothers me so much while writing this post is how this is even an issue to me. Why does it matter my two coworkers have black skin and I have white skin? Why do I feel compelled to write this? Why am I so nervous?

I understand I come from a privileged background. I had the opportunity to go to a private college. I studied abroad in Europe. I toured the United States with my choir. I’m getting married this summer. I live in a nice apartment. My dad bought my car. I KNOW I’m privileged… but the color of my skin has never seemed more obvious to me as it has in the past few days. I’m feeling the guilt of white privilege. I carry an invisible knapsack of privilege.

These women come from such different backgrounds than what I’m used to. All my (white) friends went to high school, spent four or five years in college, got a job, looked for love… more or less in that order. But that’s my white bubble. These women have lived their lives out of order, without the cloak of white privilege, they have struggled to pay for their education. They are Democrats for different reasons than I am. While I worry about climate change, Coworker worries about AIDS disproportinately affecting black people. While all my world views are rooted in theory and academia, Coworker’s views are rooted in experience and her strong faith.

I’m afraid I don’t fit in, afraid I’ll say something ignorant, afraid that I’ll come off as callous or uppity or the worst– racist.

Is it racist of me to feel like I’m out of my comfort zone? Is it racist of me to acknowledge that this experience will be a challenge? Is it racist of me to admit I’ve never had collard greens and I don’t understand the texture of black girls’ hair? Is it racist of me to mention that I do, in fact, love Will Smith and have quite the girl crush on Beyonce?

This is what I hope for in an Obama presidency: that we’ll see beyond race and actually experience one another as human beings, without feeling self-conscious about our skin color, without hiding behind our race and our ignorance, that we’ll admit honestly and humbly that we don’t understand the nuances of another’s race, but that we’re whole-heartedly willing to try, that we’ll walk a mile in black shoes or Hispanic shoes or Asian shoes or white shoes or Middle Eastern shoes and we’ll do our DAMNEDEST to comprehend the vast spectrum of experiences that comprise a person’s life. And one day, I hope my daughter or son isn’t so painfully aware of her or his skin color when she walks into an office where she is the minority.

I will go to my office to learn, not just how to do my job, but how to live.

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66 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:00 am

    One of the bests posts I’ve read in a long time. So good that you actually take a few moments to ponder what this life experience could mean to you instead of just glossing over it.

  2. Sarah permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:00 am

    One of the bests posts I’ve read in a long time. So good that you actually take a few moments to ponder what this life experience could mean to you instead of just glossing over it.

  3. Rachel permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:01 am

    oh honey, I COMPLETELY know where you are coming from

  4. Rachel permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:01 am

    oh honey, I COMPLETELY know where you are coming from

  5. Heidi Renée permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:03 am

    Good for you for putting this out there. I read the same “Invisible Knapsack” piece for a women’s studies class at MSU, and have kept it in my bookmarks. I go back to it every so often as a reminder to myself.

  6. Heidi Renée permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:03 am

    Good for you for putting this out there. I read the same “Invisible Knapsack” piece for a women’s studies class at MSU, and have kept it in my bookmarks. I go back to it every so often as a reminder to myself.

  7. Maxie permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:04 am

    I know the feeling. But don’t worry, you won’t come off as racist because YOU’RE NOT. Don’t stress and just be yourself 🙂

  8. Maxie permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:04 am

    I know the feeling. But don’t worry, you won’t come off as racist because YOU’RE NOT. Don’t stress and just be yourself 🙂

  9. January 8, 2009 4:10 am

    I loved this post!
    And, I totally agree with Maxie; don’t stress, just be yourself, learn and experience.

  10. January 8, 2009 4:10 am

    I loved this post!
    And, I totally agree with Maxie; don’t stress, just be yourself, learn and experience.

  11. Arielle permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:25 am

    It certainly doesn’t mean you’re racist, it just means you’re out of your comfort zone (which is sort of natural if you grew up in a white bubble). Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine after an hour as you realize that hey, people are people! If you don’t get offended that I have no idea about your religion, your coworkers won’t get offended that you’ve never had collard greens.

  12. Arielle permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:25 am

    It certainly doesn’t mean you’re racist, it just means you’re out of your comfort zone (which is sort of natural if you grew up in a white bubble). Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be fine after an hour as you realize that hey, people are people! If you don’t get offended that I have no idea about your religion, your coworkers won’t get offended that you’ve never had collard greens.

  13. Carmen permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:40 am

    Very well said. I too grew up in a very ‘white’ town – of my graduating class of almost 400 in high school there were only 2 students that were not Caucasian. When I moved away to university I was greeted by a great deal of racial diversity – and while I am not racist – it did take some getting used to. The languages, the cultures… very different than what I was used to. I don’t think you are racist to think the way you are thinking… it is a different experience – and you will do fine!

  14. Carmen permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:40 am

    Very well said. I too grew up in a very ‘white’ town – of my graduating class of almost 400 in high school there were only 2 students that were not Caucasian. When I moved away to university I was greeted by a great deal of racial diversity – and while I am not racist – it did take some getting used to. The languages, the cultures… very different than what I was used to. I don’t think you are racist to think the way you are thinking… it is a different experience – and you will do fine!

  15. Mandy permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:41 am

    This is a great piece Renee and I admire you for putting this out there. Just be yourself.

  16. Mandy permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:41 am

    This is a great piece Renee and I admire you for putting this out there. Just be yourself.

  17. January 8, 2009 4:44 am

    This is a lovely post, Renee.

    I don’t think you’ll be considered racist. You’re simply out of your comfort zone — nothing more, nothing less. It’s different. And I bet there’s a lot that you bring to the table that these other women will learn from you.

    I’m excited that you’re having this experience! It’s going to be a good one, and your eyes are going to be opened to different stories and walks of life simply because you’re there.

  18. January 8, 2009 4:44 am

    This is a lovely post, Renee.

    I don’t think you’ll be considered racist. You’re simply out of your comfort zone — nothing more, nothing less. It’s different. And I bet there’s a lot that you bring to the table that these other women will learn from you.

    I’m excited that you’re having this experience! It’s going to be a good one, and your eyes are going to be opened to different stories and walks of life simply because you’re there.

  19. Gooseberried permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:00 am

    Great post, Renee. I’ve never had to deal with that either. I’m sure it’s probably just because it’s different. You’ll fall into it.

  20. Gooseberried permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:00 am

    Great post, Renee. I’ve never had to deal with that either. I’m sure it’s probably just because it’s different. You’ll fall into it.

  21. Phil permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:22 am

    I agree with others, that all you need to do is be your fabulous self, and you’ll be just fine.

    One of the great things about growing up in New Mexico was being surrounded by diversity… so many cultures unite here in one place, and each is strong in its own right.

    My best friend is Native American, and the two of us couldn’t be more different, and yet our differences have made for a very strong bond of friendship. Hang in there, and I’ve no doubt you’ll find the same.

  22. Phil permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:22 am

    I agree with others, that all you need to do is be your fabulous self, and you’ll be just fine.

    One of the great things about growing up in New Mexico was being surrounded by diversity… so many cultures unite here in one place, and each is strong in its own right.

    My best friend is Native American, and the two of us couldn’t be more different, and yet our differences have made for a very strong bond of friendship. Hang in there, and I’ve no doubt you’ll find the same.

  23. Nate Ring permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:42 am

    Renee… Honestly, I Never saw this post coming. It’s an amazing blog post and a great introspection. I’m torn on how I should respond even. My only caveat is simply be honest and admit ignorance when you don’t understand something. I’m sure you’ll love your office very soon 🙂

  24. Nate Ring permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:42 am

    Renee… Honestly, I Never saw this post coming. It’s an amazing blog post and a great introspection. I’m torn on how I should respond even. My only caveat is simply be honest and admit ignorance when you don’t understand something. I’m sure you’ll love your office very soon 🙂

  25. Nate Ring permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:43 am

    P.S.

    Take care!

  26. Nate Ring permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:43 am

    P.S.

    Take care!

  27. Ben permalink
    January 8, 2009 12:30 pm

    Great post – I think you’re almost bordering on reverse racism where you’re psyching yourself out. Relax 🙂

  28. Ben permalink
    January 8, 2009 12:30 pm

    Great post – I think you’re almost bordering on reverse racism where you’re psyching yourself out. Relax 🙂

  29. Belle Ecrivaine permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:59 pm

    This is a really great post, and for me it sort of struck a cord. I’m the only white girl in an office run by Middle Eastern people. Most of our clients are Middle Eastern. I didn’t think it would bother me, but it did in the beginning because I was so worried that I’d say something wrong or offensive by accident. As you get used to your coworkers, you’ll get more comfortable and (hopefully) realize there’s nothing to worry about.

    What I’m facing at work, however, is racism. Who knew that a twenty-something white girl living in Canada could be subjected to racism? But I am. I am treated with disrespect or disgust at least once a week because I am a white girl. Some people have flat-out told me they wouldn’t trust me on their tickets because I am not of Middle Eastern decent. It’s baffling, but just goes to show that racism can affect anyone, unfortunately.

    I wouldn’t worry too much. You’re a wonderful person, and I’m sure that that is the first thing your coworkers will see. Now it’s your turn to see them as wonderful people, too, instead of wonderful black people.

  30. Belle Ecrivaine permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:59 pm

    This is a really great post, and for me it sort of struck a cord. I’m the only white girl in an office run by Middle Eastern people. Most of our clients are Middle Eastern. I didn’t think it would bother me, but it did in the beginning because I was so worried that I’d say something wrong or offensive by accident. As you get used to your coworkers, you’ll get more comfortable and (hopefully) realize there’s nothing to worry about.

    What I’m facing at work, however, is racism. Who knew that a twenty-something white girl living in Canada could be subjected to racism? But I am. I am treated with disrespect or disgust at least once a week because I am a white girl. Some people have flat-out told me they wouldn’t trust me on their tickets because I am not of Middle Eastern decent. It’s baffling, but just goes to show that racism can affect anyone, unfortunately.

    I wouldn’t worry too much. You’re a wonderful person, and I’m sure that that is the first thing your coworkers will see. Now it’s your turn to see them as wonderful people, too, instead of wonderful black people.

  31. Ray permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:39 pm

    I have been in your exact position before…I was the only white girl in an office of 6 people.
    And I kept thinking the same thing…why do I feel uncomfortable when my whole life I have been taught equality?? I really think it was that I didn’t feel a certain way towards my coworkers, I just kept thinking they thought I did.
    It is just proof that we aren’t fully there yet. Just be yourself and in the end, things will work out. It did for me. 🙂

  32. Ray permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:39 pm

    I have been in your exact position before…I was the only white girl in an office of 6 people.
    And I kept thinking the same thing…why do I feel uncomfortable when my whole life I have been taught equality?? I really think it was that I didn’t feel a certain way towards my coworkers, I just kept thinking they thought I did.
    It is just proof that we aren’t fully there yet. Just be yourself and in the end, things will work out. It did for me. 🙂

  33. Deutlich permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:54 pm

    I all kinds of want to give you a big hug.

    Just let things flow.. and keep your eyes and ears open. If anything, this’ll help expose you to more than you could’ve imagined.

    Black folks that work in offices aren’t the ones who come off as uppity towards whites. Not normally, at least. It’s the ones that are downtrodden and fucked with their whole lives that aren’t so easy to deal with.

    Moreover, most of us realize that our situations are just that – ours. And we don’t go blaming white people for the shit our parents brought upon us.

    At least – that’s how it is with educated folks. From what I’ve come across.

  34. Deutlich permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:54 pm

    I all kinds of want to give you a big hug.

    Just let things flow.. and keep your eyes and ears open. If anything, this’ll help expose you to more than you could’ve imagined.

    Black folks that work in offices aren’t the ones who come off as uppity towards whites. Not normally, at least. It’s the ones that are downtrodden and fucked with their whole lives that aren’t so easy to deal with.

    Moreover, most of us realize that our situations are just that – ours. And we don’t go blaming white people for the shit our parents brought upon us.

    At least – that’s how it is with educated folks. From what I’ve come across.

  35. Lacey Bean permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:03 pm

    I definitely dont think that it means you are racist by any sense. Or acting racist, whatever. I think that once you start working with your new coworkers, you wont even notice anything anymore. But if you still feel uncomfortable after awhile, or feel like you cant be yourself for fear of offending them, talk to them about it. But I’m sure it will be fine. 🙂

  36. Lacey Bean permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:03 pm

    I definitely dont think that it means you are racist by any sense. Or acting racist, whatever. I think that once you start working with your new coworkers, you wont even notice anything anymore. But if you still feel uncomfortable after awhile, or feel like you cant be yourself for fear of offending them, talk to them about it. But I’m sure it will be fine. 🙂

  37. Brandy permalink
    January 8, 2009 6:13 pm

    Ahhh! There’s so much stuff to say here. First of all, huge credit for writing this- I can imagine this wasn’t an easy one to hit “publish” for, yet you did.

    I can relate to so much of what you are saying here, having grown up in an all-white neighbourhood, gone to a pretty much all-white school, it wasn’t until I was doing my teaching practicum that I came face to face with people with people who were not white. And like you, I asked all these questions. If I notice that they aren’t white, does that mean I’m racist? Shouldn’t I be completely color blind? But like someone before me said, it’s just something new, you’re out of your normal ‘bubble’ so it’s going to be something you notice.

    In short, you are many things, lovely and talented, and a shoo-in for President, but racist? Not even close my friend. (Hope the job situation is getting better everyday!)

  38. Brandy permalink
    January 8, 2009 6:13 pm

    Ahhh! There’s so much stuff to say here. First of all, huge credit for writing this- I can imagine this wasn’t an easy one to hit “publish” for, yet you did.

    I can relate to so much of what you are saying here, having grown up in an all-white neighbourhood, gone to a pretty much all-white school, it wasn’t until I was doing my teaching practicum that I came face to face with people with people who were not white. And like you, I asked all these questions. If I notice that they aren’t white, does that mean I’m racist? Shouldn’t I be completely color blind? But like someone before me said, it’s just something new, you’re out of your normal ‘bubble’ so it’s going to be something you notice.

    In short, you are many things, lovely and talented, and a shoo-in for President, but racist? Not even close my friend. (Hope the job situation is getting better everyday!)

  39. Katelin permalink
    January 9, 2009 1:51 am

    this is a great post renee. and in no way do i think you’re racist for being concerned or worried. being out of your bubble is scary and situations like that are always scary, you’re with new people who have way different backgrounds and experiences than you do and it’s okay. i believe it’ll be fine and awesome and you rock 🙂

  40. Katelin permalink
    January 9, 2009 1:51 am

    this is a great post renee. and in no way do i think you’re racist for being concerned or worried. being out of your bubble is scary and situations like that are always scary, you’re with new people who have way different backgrounds and experiences than you do and it’s okay. i believe it’ll be fine and awesome and you rock 🙂

  41. Brian permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:24 am

    I think everything you’ve said here demonstrates you have exactly the correct attitude.

    If you didn’t see the differences, or didn’t care to understand the differences, then you’d be ignorant.

    There’s nothing wrong with noticing racial differences. Hell, a great number of stereotypes and cliches exist because they’re true.

    I think we’re more and more living in a world where we discuss, share, and embrace these differences, and intentionally pretending they didn’t exist would
    be foolish.

    In other words, am I the only boy here?

  42. Brian permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:24 am

    I think everything you’ve said here demonstrates you have exactly the correct attitude.

    If you didn’t see the differences, or didn’t care to understand the differences, then you’d be ignorant.

    There’s nothing wrong with noticing racial differences. Hell, a great number of stereotypes and cliches exist because they’re true.

    I think we’re more and more living in a world where we discuss, share, and embrace these differences, and intentionally pretending they didn’t exist would
    be foolish.

    In other words, am I the only boy here?

  43. rachel permalink
    January 9, 2009 4:10 am

    i love you for writing this. i’m grateful that my town was pretty mixed up ethnically, even considering it’s small size.

    just try to take in and learn everything that you can from them. there reasons for thinking what they think, feeling how they feel… it’s going to put a whole new perspective on things for you.

    you are going to do amazing and those girls are going to love ya.

    good luck!!!

  44. rachel permalink
    January 9, 2009 4:10 am

    i love you for writing this. i’m grateful that my town was pretty mixed up ethnically, even considering it’s small size.

    just try to take in and learn everything that you can from them. there reasons for thinking what they think, feeling how they feel… it’s going to put a whole new perspective on things for you.

    you are going to do amazing and those girls are going to love ya.

    good luck!!!

  45. Schmutzie permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:11 pm

    You are being featured on Five Star Friday!
    http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/01/five-star-friday-edition-36.html

  46. Schmutzie permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:11 pm

    You are being featured on Five Star Friday!
    http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/01/five-star-friday-edition-36.html

  47. ♥ Tiffany ♥ permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:51 pm

    racist means you dont like someone soley because of their color. prejudices are when you tend to follow stereotypes or assume attributes to skin color. the fact that you are aware and trying to to learn from a new experience is amazing and shows what a thoughtful person you are. im sure you will learn from the differences and embrace the similarities. but i agree with ben and maxie, relax, dont overthink and just enjoy them as 2 people.

  48. ♥ Tiffany ♥ permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:51 pm

    racist means you dont like someone soley because of their color. prejudices are when you tend to follow stereotypes or assume attributes to skin color. the fact that you are aware and trying to to learn from a new experience is amazing and shows what a thoughtful person you are. im sure you will learn from the differences and embrace the similarities. but i agree with ben and maxie, relax, dont overthink and just enjoy them as 2 people.

  49. Ashley permalink
    January 9, 2009 8:37 pm

    You know what’s funny, Renee?

    I’m experiencing the reverse situation.

    I worked at an afterschool center for two years where I worked with urban youth. Working with exclusively African American children for 2 years – eating, playing, and working with 100 kids who looked different than me, who experienced a different reality, who came from a different place – made me confront my race often.

    And now I’m on working on a university campus. I’m stuck in an “ivory tower” discussing service and social justice with people who have had scant experience working long term with different populations. It drives me cra-aaazy with frustration, when everyone acts like they know everything.

    Although our situations aren’t exactly parallel, I get you.

    Hope your first week was beyond fab!

  50. Ashley permalink
    January 9, 2009 8:37 pm

    You know what’s funny, Renee?

    I’m experiencing the reverse situation.

    I worked at an afterschool center for two years where I worked with urban youth. Working with exclusively African American children for 2 years – eating, playing, and working with 100 kids who looked different than me, who experienced a different reality, who came from a different place – made me confront my race often.

    And now I’m on working on a university campus. I’m stuck in an “ivory tower” discussing service and social justice with people who have had scant experience working long term with different populations. It drives me cra-aaazy with frustration, when everyone acts like they know everything.

    Although our situations aren’t exactly parallel, I get you.

    Hope your first week was beyond fab!

  51. sarahbelledotcom permalink
    January 9, 2009 10:54 pm

    Miss Renee,

    First you are marvelous for even writing about this. Your honesty is amazing, seriously.
    Nothing you said makes you racist. I would say the opposite, actually. You are admitting to being a little confused, which is good. How could you not be? Just as they can’t change the way they were brought up, you can’t either. No one is judging you for that, as no one should. The fact that you are seeing this job as equal parts of career building, and life building? Is amazing. And I hope everything works out there for you.

    I’m sure it will. Ox

  52. sarahbelledotcom permalink
    January 9, 2009 10:54 pm

    Miss Renee,

    First you are marvelous for even writing about this. Your honesty is amazing, seriously.
    Nothing you said makes you racist. I would say the opposite, actually. You are admitting to being a little confused, which is good. How could you not be? Just as they can’t change the way they were brought up, you can’t either. No one is judging you for that, as no one should. The fact that you are seeing this job as equal parts of career building, and life building? Is amazing. And I hope everything works out there for you.

    I’m sure it will. Ox

  53. Kyla Bea permalink
    January 10, 2009 4:17 pm

    You're so brave for putting this out there miss!

    This isn't about being racist, it's about having the tables turned a little. As people who are Caucasian there are very few times in life when we're the minority and it is a different feeling. And it doesn't change anything either – these ladies are going to be your super awesome co-workers no matter where their families are from and you'll get along just the same as if you were all from the same neighborhood.

    We all have differences, and skin colour (thankfully!) is just not at all the thing that's most indicative of where someone is coming from. While it may seem like the most notable difference, be glad that you're not office buddies with someone who was raised in Poland who is into Scandinavian death metal & bondage fashion.

    That would be a real problem. This? You're golden.

    To avoid the uppity white girl thing just don't be that girl – there is nothing really stereotypically white or black. Hang out and see where you guys mesh & what's cool and not with these women, just like you do with everyone, and you'll feel it out.

    And take it as an opportunity to put yourself in the situation of all minorities in the country. It is a strange feeling at first to be the minority. If you were a visible minority or someone who had to wear specific clothing that was tied to religion, how would that effect your world view if you always stood out? It sounds like a great change to develop some more specific compassion.

  54. Kyla Bea permalink
    January 10, 2009 4:17 pm

    You're so brave for putting this out there miss!

    This isn't about being racist, it's about having the tables turned a little. As people who are Caucasian there are very few times in life when we're the minority and it is a different feeling. And it doesn't change anything either – these ladies are going to be your super awesome co-workers no matter where their families are from and you'll get along just the same as if you were all from the same neighborhood.

    We all have differences, and skin colour (thankfully!) is just not at all the thing that's most indicative of where someone is coming from. While it may seem like the most notable difference, be glad that you're not office buddies with someone who was raised in Poland who is into Scandinavian death metal & bondage fashion.

    That would be a real problem. This? You're golden.

    To avoid the uppity white girl thing just don't be that girl – there is nothing really stereotypically white or black. Hang out and see where you guys mesh & what's cool and not with these women, just like you do with everyone, and you'll feel it out.

    And take it as an opportunity to put yourself in the situation of all minorities in the country. It is a strange feeling at first to be the minority. If you were a visible minority or someone who had to wear specific clothing that was tied to religion, how would that effect your world view if you always stood out? It sounds like a great change to develop some more specific compassion.

  55. Angela permalink
    January 10, 2009 4:44 pm

    At my job in Chicago, I was in a half-white/half-black department. I was actually teased a fair amount for being “too white” when I didn’t understand slang or wasn’t familiar with certain music. It was something I had no experience with, and it was definitely an adjustment. Good luck to you. May it go very smoothly.

  56. Angela permalink
    January 10, 2009 4:44 pm

    At my job in Chicago, I was in a half-white/half-black department. I was actually teased a fair amount for being “too white” when I didn’t understand slang or wasn’t familiar with certain music. It was something I had no experience with, and it was definitely an adjustment. Good luck to you. May it go very smoothly.

  57. Tipp permalink
    January 12, 2009 4:33 am

    Wow. just wow.

    This was so awesome. Not that I have any right to weigh in here, being that I am carrying around the same “knapsack” as you, but I think that your being “aware” and curious is NOT racist, but that shows that you acknowledge what you can learn from people. Most people would be happy to share and educate each other on those things.

    Learning about other people goes so much further than their skin color, as you know. Learn about them as people, sounds like you are off to a great start!

  58. Tipp permalink
    January 12, 2009 4:33 am

    Wow. just wow.

    This was so awesome. Not that I have any right to weigh in here, being that I am carrying around the same “knapsack” as you, but I think that your being “aware” and curious is NOT racist, but that shows that you acknowledge what you can learn from people. Most people would be happy to share and educate each other on those things.

    Learning about other people goes so much further than their skin color, as you know. Learn about them as people, sounds like you are off to a great start!

  59. theedeeter permalink
    January 13, 2009 4:37 am

    I know I’m a few days late with reading this…boo on crazy rehearsal schedules.

    Anyways, I can’t remember if you took any classes with Dr. Riley while she was at SMC our last two years, but I took her “Performing Whiteness” class, and if there is one thing that I learned, it’s that color blindness is a counter productive thing. Your realizing that Coworker and Boss DO come from different places, backgrounds, and experiences is exactly on the right track. I’d say you shouldn’t be worried. By acknowledging that there are differences between you, you are taking the right first step to being able to work to understand each other. Best of luck–although I can’t think of a better person I know to be in this situation who will be able to handle it with aplomb.

  60. theedeeter permalink
    January 13, 2009 4:37 am

    I know I’m a few days late with reading this…boo on crazy rehearsal schedules.

    Anyways, I can’t remember if you took any classes with Dr. Riley while she was at SMC our last two years, but I took her “Performing Whiteness” class, and if there is one thing that I learned, it’s that color blindness is a counter productive thing. Your realizing that Coworker and Boss DO come from different places, backgrounds, and experiences is exactly on the right track. I’d say you shouldn’t be worried. By acknowledging that there are differences between you, you are taking the right first step to being able to work to understand each other. Best of luck–although I can’t think of a better person I know to be in this situation who will be able to handle it with aplomb.

  61. Your Ill-fitting Overcoat permalink
    January 14, 2009 2:44 pm

    This is a really brave and honest post, and I applaud you for writing it. I grew up a bit differently– in a very racially diverse city and schools, all the way through college, had a few close black friends and roommates– but I still managed to live in what was mostly a white bubble for most of my life.

    I had a few really challenging experiences– living in an apartment of four people as the “token white girl” was one of them– and I’ll warn you that this is likely to get harder before it gets easier. But it’s worth it because for all the growing pain and the pain of ugly self-realizations, you will grow from it, and it will enrich your relationships. I do believe that.

    Good luck, Renee!

  62. Your Ill-fitting Overcoat permalink
    January 14, 2009 2:44 pm

    This is a really brave and honest post, and I applaud you for writing it. I grew up a bit differently– in a very racially diverse city and schools, all the way through college, had a few close black friends and roommates– but I still managed to live in what was mostly a white bubble for most of my life.

    I had a few really challenging experiences– living in an apartment of four people as the “token white girl” was one of them– and I’ll warn you that this is likely to get harder before it gets easier. But it’s worth it because for all the growing pain and the pain of ugly self-realizations, you will grow from it, and it will enrich your relationships. I do believe that.

    Good luck, Renee!

  63. Amanda permalink
    January 14, 2009 4:10 pm

    I considered marking all as read on all the blog posts I’ve missed this past month, but I’m so happy I thought better and got to read this post. You’ve summed up every one of my fears heading into my next two years with Teach for America. I know I say I judge everyone based on who they are not what color they are, but walking into a school filled with African American and Hispanic students terrifies me. Their lives are so incredibly different than mine, I fear I will have no way to relate to them or help them.

    I think this is something every middle class liberal deals with – making the connection between what we believe, what we feel, and how we act. I know you and I aren’t racist. We just have to shed all the things society has pushed onto us without us noticing – all the stereotypes, all the fears, all the little invisible messages telling us we’re different from them – and listen to ourselves and what we know is true. Everyone is different, but not for the reasons society tells us.

    Good luck with the job! I’m sure you are doing amazingly.

  64. Amanda permalink
    January 14, 2009 4:10 pm

    I considered marking all as read on all the blog posts I’ve missed this past month, but I’m so happy I thought better and got to read this post. You’ve summed up every one of my fears heading into my next two years with Teach for America. I know I say I judge everyone based on who they are not what color they are, but walking into a school filled with African American and Hispanic students terrifies me. Their lives are so incredibly different than mine, I fear I will have no way to relate to them or help them.

    I think this is something every middle class liberal deals with – making the connection between what we believe, what we feel, and how we act. I know you and I aren’t racist. We just have to shed all the things society has pushed onto us without us noticing – all the stereotypes, all the fears, all the little invisible messages telling us we’re different from them – and listen to ourselves and what we know is true. Everyone is different, but not for the reasons society tells us.

    Good luck with the job! I’m sure you are doing amazingly.

  65. 1Dgaf permalink
    January 26, 2009 6:44 am

    You gave no information in your post about the background of these women.

    Are you sure they had problems growing up? Or are you assuming?

    What your thinking, your trying to orient yourself, may be necessary but it probably isn’t *helpful*.

    Imagine you met someone who was extremely rich. Obscenely rich. This person made a big deal out of you having regular money.

    They flaggellated themselves over the fact that you once had to take public transport and they had gold-plated elephants to carry them around.

    Wouldn’t it be a bit weird? Condescening? Wouldn’t you get sick of it?

    Just treat people normally. Find out about them. If they’ve had a rocky upbringing, acknowledge it. But don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t mollycoddle them. Don’t treat them ‘differently’ because you think YOU ought to feel guilty.

  66. 1Dgaf permalink
    January 26, 2009 6:44 am

    You gave no information in your post about the background of these women.

    Are you sure they had problems growing up? Or are you assuming?

    What your thinking, your trying to orient yourself, may be necessary but it probably isn’t *helpful*.

    Imagine you met someone who was extremely rich. Obscenely rich. This person made a big deal out of you having regular money.

    They flaggellated themselves over the fact that you once had to take public transport and they had gold-plated elephants to carry them around.

    Wouldn’t it be a bit weird? Condescening? Wouldn’t you get sick of it?

    Just treat people normally. Find out about them. If they’ve had a rocky upbringing, acknowledge it. But don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t mollycoddle them. Don’t treat them ‘differently’ because you think YOU ought to feel guilty.

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