How much I do not understand

As long as I ignore what I do not understand, I am yet another perpetrator and inflictor of the injustices I do not understand.

I do not understand what it would be like to explain to my son why he is more likely to die at the hands of the police than other people.

I do not understand what it would feel like to be watched like a hawk upon simply entering a store.

I do not understand what it would be like to be hated, cursed, or the target of racial slurs — all for no other reason than the color of my skin.

I do not understand what it would be like to graduate without ever having a teacher who looked like me.

I do not understand what it would be like to navigate a world that systematically lowers its expectations for what I can achieve or become.

I do not understand what it would be like to be flippantly categorized as one of “you people” by someone I have never even met.

I do not understand how exhausting it would be to have no other choice than to labour as a full-time advocate for my own humanity.

I do not understand the burden of personally carrying the responsibility for convincing other people that I, too, possess the right to be treated equitably and fairly.

I do not understand what it would be like to now suddenly be the object of guilty, awkward sympathy from white people who have hitherto never broached the topic of race with me before.

I do not understand what it would be like to consistently wonder why someone averts their eyes when we pass on the sidewalk — or wonder why someone else insists on receiving my acknowledgement and attention.

I do not understand how many more things that I do not understand.

But as long as I ignore what I do not understand, I am yet another perpetrator and inflictor of all these injustices that I do not understand.

The point is not that one day I will (or can) fully understand — the point is that I never stop trying.

Cite this page:
Shelley, James. (2020). 'How much I do not understand' Originally published on June 26, 2020. Cited version last modified on November 2, 2020. Accessed on December 2, 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permalink: https://jamesshelley.com?p=16867
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When shared on social media, the image associated with this page is Photograph of the Civil Rights March on Washington (August 28, 1963) by The U.S. National Archives (Access the original image or embedded crop verison)

2 thoughts on “How much I do not understand

  1. James Shelley has a good starter list of things white people do not understand. It should be paired with a corollary list (or perhaps a talk) of things one does understand — or should — about being white.

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