I’m Shutting My White Mouth about Race.

Via Amanda Christmann
on Jan 25, 2016
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silence quiet

I sat down to write a story about race.

I wanted to talk about the difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, and the fact that white lives have been about the only things that have mattered for so long that it is about time people of color (any color besides white) had a voice.

I wanted to discuss white privilege, and how, even though I don’t believe I am racist, I have unknowingly taken advantage of a system that has given me access to education, role models, and opportunities that are absolutely not afforded to many people of color in this country.

I wanted to make a point of the fact that police brutality exists against people of color, and that supporting law enforcement and recognizing there are problems are not mutually exclusive propositions. As the former wife of a police officer (who is still a close friend), I was ready to plead the case that there are a lot of really wonderful men and women who are serving us by doing the difficult job of enforcing our laws, but that their exemplary service does not excuse the ones who need to be held accountable for bullying, profiling, discriminating, and killing people.

I wanted to talk about the gun-toting rednecks who took over federal land in Oregon and compare their relative comfort and lack of consequences to the rubber bullets, riot response teams, and violence that Black Lives Matter protestors have incurred in different parts of the country.

I wanted to point out the fact that one in three black men will be jailed in his lifetime, and how that number is absolutely, unequivocally not because black men are committing the majority of crimes.

I wanted to share studies about inequality in sentencing for the same crimes, and the fact that it has been scientifically proven that black men and women are sentenced more harshly than white men and women who commit the same crimes.

And I wanted to talk about the fact that when black men do commit crimes, they often are simply conforming to a self-fulfilling prophecy after years of being pigeon-holed into the role of “menace to society” projected upon them by educational systems, public servants, and white people like me who clutch their purses tighter and squeeze our children’s hands when young, black males pass us on the street.

I wanted to make the point that I have been to West Africa and toured the castles where slaves were held by imperialists before they were forced to come to the United States. I wanted to say that those slaves, whose lives were stolen in the most cruel, inhumane ways possible, were a big part of why our country is successful today. I had a need to tell everyone how they not only built the economy that has allowed us all to maintain our independence, but also to thrive, and that they forcefully sacrificed their families, their tribes, and their cultures to do so.

They didn’t receive rights to even go to the same schools as white people until just one to two generations ago; we cannot expect them to walk away saying, “Oh, well. No big deal.”

I wanted to talk about my home town, where a “No Niggers Allowed” sign was posted along the highway when I was small.

How one of the only black men who grew up in my area, and who is not much older than me, told me he was not allowed in certain stores and was harassed, cursed, and treated like an unwanted, flea-ridden dog when he was young. I wanted to say that we cannot expect people like him to “get over it” just because we now have a black president.

I wanted to mention that, in the next town over, three black teens beat up a white teen last week. I wanted to say that my very best friend from high school called me and angrily proclaimed that, had they been white kids who assaulted a black kid, they would have been all over the news. And I wanted to say that, if they had been white, people would have said it was an isolated racist incident; but because they were black, the (white) public assumed they represented their entire race.

I wanted to write about so much, but I realized something as my letters turned into words, and my words turned into sentences, and my sentences turned into paragraphs.

The truth is, I am white, and I have no idea what it is like to be black or brown or any other color in America.

Sure, I have had some tough struggles in life, and sure, I have worked for the things I have, but the rest of the truth is, I have been granted privilege because of my skin color since the day I was born. I have no idea what it is like to be anything other than white, and I have no business speaking on behalf of anyone who does.

But there are millions of people of country who have the ability, and the right, to say it better than me because they have lived it.

And so, as I began to write, I realized that I the very best thing I can do is to shut the hell up about race. And instead, listen.

Because that is the only thing that will create change.


Author: Amanda Christmann

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Ket Quang/Free Images 



About Amanda Christmann

Amanda Christmann is a freelance writer and editor who loves good words, good wine and good times with friends and family. She travels the world as a human rights advocate and activist, particularly on issues that involve human trafficking and women’s empowerment. She is an avid cyclist and runs with scissors, whenever possible. In addition to elephant journal, her work has been featured by Women For One, Tattooed Buddha and ImagesAZ magazine, among other publications. Connect with Amanda via her Facebook page.



24 Responses to “I’m Shutting My White Mouth about Race.”

  1. Nicole Cameron says:

    Amanda, I want to give you a big hug for this! Thank you for recognizing our history and struggle, and realizing your place in it. I hope that more people can learn to listen, without trying to justify actions and beliefs that have no justification. Articles like this make me proud to be a part of this community.

  2. Ginny Cattermole says:

    This is a perfect piece. When so many want to make things better, to make sense of racial inequality, to find words to express the reality we witness and the dream of rectifying what is still so wrong, this is just perfect. Thank you.

  3. Nikka Mar says:

    While I agree with some of this. White people have been silent about the race problems in this country for far too long. For several generations we have been told to not talk about race issues. We have been told to be told that in order to not be racist we have to be “color blind.” I call bull crap. Not only do we need to see all our colors we need to celebrate the rainbow. We as white people need to talk about race and teach our children to talk about it. We need to stand with our black, brown brothers and sisters or nothing will change. “The inaction is a form of action. There is no neutral space.”

  4. artemis133 says:

    All lives matter. I am a white woman, but I've never seen the so-called white privilege that I was supposed to automatically have. I grew up the granddaughter of a coal miner who died of black lung disease at age 52 (I'm 56 now). Our family was working class, and was never given any special favors.

    I understand what this article is about, but we will never be a color blind society as long as we make everything about color. And I will not hate myself because I was born white.

  5. Chris says:

    I don’t like the way you’re words would influence people with low situational awareness. There are so many factors that create such a multifaceted set of dynamics that we can agree and call socialism which best summarizes what we experience in america..

    You might be a nice person. But from a bias perspective , you seem bigoted .

    I’d stick with all lives matter, attack specific mindsets , behaviors , but never segregate or favor any race if you want less racism.

    If you want equality. Start studying the brain, and piezoelectricity in the body and how physical aspects cultivate ones said personality, and beliefs, as much as you’re upbringing, aka, programming.

    I’m going off track here, but I’m not assuming that you may even already know, that more than anything, you’re just building a following in shortcoming .

    I think something that would influence racism more than attacking racism, is making someone thing the lines of a civil service exam requirement to earn the right to vote …. Think about how that might be possible….

  6. Gayle Fleming says:

    As a black woman who believes in the Oneness of all Beings, I believe you have written so eloquently about a systemic problem, that anyone who refuses to see your message for what it so beautifully says, is simply in denial. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Tom (Guest) says:

    I think it would be easier to "divide" between "good people" and "bad people".
    Because skin color is not as important as character in my usually not so humble opionion.
    I happen to be labeled 'caucasian' (white) – but one of my role models happens to be Morgan Freeman.
    There`s a couple of freeloading, arrogant, anti-social (beep) in my area – who are as white as they come – and are definately NOT a role model for anyone. Maybe an example of how stuff can go wrong, but that be about it.

    Maybe there is privilege, or maybe it`s a fabrication – i do not know.
    But – if someone is nice to me, whether it`s a he/she/unsure and this person might be black/white/olive or purple with yellow dots – i don`t care- but then i`ll be nice to that person.
    If you`re being rude, expect the cold shoulder.

    That said, people hating others because they happen to be different (in belief, racial background, lifestyle or whatnot) are pitied – they are missing on some great stuff. Think about art, music, and the food from 'foreign' places .. (heaven on earth? A multicultural food party!)

    It`s time for common sense – everywhere – and for people to see who is actually doing the dividing. Media, politics and 'pressure groups' … as a people divided cannot stand, and can therefore be controlled by power hungry idiots.

  8. Kobie says:

    How about instead of writing a long article about how you shouldn't be writing about race as a white person, how about instead pointing folks to the many people of color who have already written about this time and time again?

  9. RosieLately says:

    Thank you Amanda, this warms my heart, thank you for your understanding.

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