I grew up in a rural part of Germany, which was basically a small racist microcosm within a larger racist society. Racism was an intrinsic part of my upbringing, even though it wasn’t addressed, as such. In school, there was a lot of time dedicated to teaching us that racism was a bad thing, but at the same time, and quite paradoxically, micro aggressions and stereotypes that were used to establish a racist hierarchy were still a common phenomenon we, as children, experienced everywhere: In political discussions, as well as in private conversations.
Not much has changed, since.
As a teenager and later as an adult, I tried my best to become a “decent” human being, nonetheless, and to treat everyone how I would want to be treated: Fairly, respectfully, as equals.
However, it wasn’t until 2016, when I became aware of some of my Black colleagues rightfully protesting against the spiritual bypassing strategies us “woke white women” in my industry often applied when it came to addressing our racist biases and our unearned white privilege, that I properly began doing my inner work of un-learning the racist conditioning within me.
Undoing our early childhood conditioning is hard work, and it is crucial work.
Even after four years, I don’t think I’m fully there yet. That is how deep this stuff goes. And I’ll keep going.
From Peggy McIntosh’s academic paper, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, 1989 – watch her TEDx talk on “How to recognize your white privilege, and use it to fight inequality”, here.