History repeats itself.

I have a lot of opinions. I don’t typically get political, but I feel like I have to just get this off of my chest after the President’s comments at an Alabama rally this week. President Trump called on NFL team owners to fire those “SOB” players that kneel during the national anthem at football games. Here’s my take:

I am a 30 year old American white woman. I was raised by parents who are racist in a predominantly white area. I didn’t have much interaction with people of other ethnicities and as such I was ignorant and feared African Americans due to the stories I was told by my parents growing up. I have never been racist. I always treated people how they treated me, regardless of what they looked like. 

When I was 18 years old, my parents moved from Western NY to about an hour north of Atlanta, GA. I thought people in WNY were racist (ha). In this little town of Jasper, GA I experienced hate for the first time, as did my parents. We were now labeled “Yankees” by southerners who were still stuck in the civil war era. My parents owned a diner which I worked at. During my tenure there, I heard my share of insults about being a Yankee. Being new to the area and younger, I struggled to fit in and make friends. I did notice a common theme with the people who labeled me a yankee and treated me differently: they were all uneducated (I don’t believe any of them had attended high school) and they never left the small town they grew up in and went out into the world. These same people were also racist; however, most of them had never spoken to an African American in their lives. It was also the first time that I had heard about the KKK outside of history class in high school. The KKK was active in North GA and knowing that completely baffled me. Needless to say, I lasted in GA for 4 months. I was 19 years old when I moved out of my parents house and went to live in Philadelphia with my boyfriend (now husband) whom I had a long distance relationship with since I left WNY.

When I moved to Philly, I enrolled in beauty school before learning the area and really settling in. And I’m so glad that I did. 

I was the Minority in beauty school. Literally, I was 1 of 2 white girls in a beauty school with almost 100 African American women. My first day of beauty school I was petrified. My entire life I was told that African Americans were criminals, had no morals, were poverty stricken and even that they hated white people. I kept to myself thinking maybe I won’t get beat up that way. It took 10 minutes for someone to approach me. Her name was Alliah. She was so nice and made me feel so welcome. When we had our first lunch break she invited me out with some of the girls. I was the only white girl invited. Reluctantly, I said yes. And I’m so glad that I did. Not one of those girls looked at or treated me like I was not like them. After time, we all became great friends and knowing them shattered any stereotypes I grew up believeing about African Americans. Alliah invited me to her house for dinner. She didn’t live in the best area in Philly and I had no idea what her family was like. I only knew that she had a huge family. Would they treat me like she did? Do they hate white people? I started questioning it. When I got there, I was greeted with a big hug from her Mother. They sat me at the head of the table and I experienced some of the best homemade food I’d ever had. Her entire family never once treated me like I was privelged or didn’t look like them, but I began to feel it. Her brother had a good job and education, but I knew he was paid less than a white man in the same position. I knew that when they left the house and were not around other African Americans they were probably not treated the same as their white counterparts. I knew that police in their town followed them constantly and looked for any reason they could find to pull them over. I also realized that I have never experienced any of their struggles (aside from gender pay equality, which is a topic for another day), which meant that I was privileged. Spending a year of my life with those girls and some of their families changed my life and my views. I will forever be grateful for the experience that I had while I lived in Philadelphia years ago. 

I am now back living in WNY. I am very patriotic. I love my country. I treat everyone equally. I have nothing but respect for our flag and the service members who risked and gave their lives for our freedom. I also understand why Colin Kaeprnick took a knee during the anthem during an NFL game. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out:

Because we live in a democracy that abides by the constitution of the USA, we have the freedom of speech. African Americans spent decades fighting for freedom. They got it. Once they became free, they spent decades fighting for equality. They have yet to get that. Years of peaceful protests have got them nowhere. An NFL player takes a knee during the national anthem to bring awareness to racial injustice and now people are talking about it. NFL fans, team owners, players, non-NFL fans, and even the president of the United States. I think we can all agree that there may be better ways to highlight the issue of racial injustice than kneeling during the anthem. However, that has all been done before and yet nothing has changed. 

So what is the answer? I say we do this. White people of America need to say the following to the protesters: “We hear you. We have empathy for you. Things need to change.”. Don’t like them protesting during the national anthem? LISTEN and have conversations to make change so that they no longer feel the need to do that to get your attention; don’t feel like they need to do that to be heard. It’s easy for white people to say there isn’t an issue because we are not impacted, but it doesn’t matter what we think. We are not in their shoes and never will be so we need to look within ourselves and say wow it would suck to be treated differently because I was white and take a stand to make a change. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am a white woman who is relentlessly patriotic. I love the USA and I realize how lucky we are to live in a country where we are free. I also realize that people are not treated equally in this country. I also realize that the current President has done nothing to condemn it. “Firing the son of a bitches” that protest is not the answer. Listening to their concerns and having empathy for people who are not like you is. If you can’t find it in you to do so, I encourage you to get out into the world and get cultured. 

All you need is love. ❤️

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