What they don’t tell you about speaking out (and having different views)

If you are privileged enough to go to college, then hopefully you are challenged, faced with hard decisions, and exposed to new ideas. College is meant to be a place of self-realization, exploration, and enlightenment. I spent five years as an undergrad and didn’t fully realize how much college changes you until my last year. I realized pretty quickly that I had abandoned my ultra-conservative roots and picked up a more liberal, left-winged way of thinking. From the Black Lives Matter movement to DAPL, I consistently had different opinions than my loved ones (specifically on Facebook).

I am a loud and proud individual. I am privileged as hell. I suffer from white guilt but choose not to be immobilized by it. I am a God fearing Christian. I am all of these things and more, yet I find myself constantly questioning my role, what society is suppose to be, and how to make a true difference. All of these things I have learned about on the job, in the classroom, on a Saturday night three drinks deep at a bar. There is so much knowledge I have gained, questioned, and created – however they don’t tell you everything.

They don’t tell you how to respond to harsh criticism to your ideals and beliefs by your friends. They don’t tell you how awkward it will be at family events whenever you’re the “flaming liberal” who has betrayed their conservative upbringing. They don’t tell you about the tears, rage, and fear you feel (all at once) when a family member you have loved, looked up to, and have worshiped all your life tells you they don’t know who you are anymore, that you have betrayed your heritage – essentially cutting ties. They don’t tell you the pain you will go through as you change into the person your trying to become.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you will wonder why you even bother to speak out about injustices, the hypocrisy, and the hatred. They don’t tell you that your family will slowly walk away whenever you don’t sit on the same side of the political spectrum. They don’t tell you have you sit, for hours, wondering if all you have done is even worth it. There is so much they don’t tell you – so here I sit, wondering if my activism, yearning for a socially just society, and hundreds of hours of self-education is even worth it. What am I really accomplishing? Is it even worth it?

I don’t know. I am terrified. My greatest fear is being lonely. They don’t tell you about all the shit that comes with picking the high road, the road less traveled, the road not in-line with your family. I am so young, yet I feel so old. I am so privileged, yet I feel like I have lost so much. No one told me that I would be where I am at right now. The only thing I have left to do is pray, read, meditate, and reflect. I don’t know what I am meant to do in this life – what I know now is that it gets real ugly, real painful, real. This is not the guilt confession of another white ally. This is not the bickering of a privileged male. This is true hurt, true confusion, true desperation. This is so much and more – the things that did tell me when I started this journey.

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White is White: You can’t cover up what the world sees

“In addition to specifying one’s European ancestry, and reclaiming lost family traditions, this shift (of distancing self from whiteness) can also be understood as a way to distance oneself from claims made by people of color about some imagined “standard white American,” and from political assertions that whites have “unearned” privilege or are responsible for disadvantaged position of minorities.
-Jennifer L. Eichstedt, Problematic White Identities and a Search for Racial Justice.
When the light is flashed on us white folk about our white privilege, we come up with various excuses: “oh I’m working class, I don’t get the privilege because I had to work for everything I’ve gotten” or “that’s only for straight people” or “no I’m actually Italian on my mom’s side, not white”. While it may seem impossible to put all whiteness on the same level, it is the same in this system of power and privilege where white folk win and folk of color loose. We can’t pick and choose what identity trumps our whiteness – white is visible, white wins. And this is something we need to own up to.
Us white folk also try and see persecution that happens to us as well within these excuses. “Oh I grew up as the only white kid in my neighborhood” or “Oh I was the only Jewish kid in my high school”. Simply because you were the minority in one example doesn’t mean you are THE minority that looses in a system of power and privilege. This is like saying reverse racism is a think. IT IS NOT A THING. How can white people who control it all observe pervasive and damaging racism? That would imply that people of color have power over us white folk WHEN THEY DON’T.
Now, that’s not to say you can’t be shot because you’re white or be picked last to play a pick up game because you’re white. That can happen to anyone at anytime. What the point we white folk need to understand is that we DON’T LIVE IN CONSTANT FEAR that it will happen simply because of the color of our skin. We can push people of color out of our neighborhoods or simply move. We can send our children to expensive private schools. We can simply work for another company. White people can do whatever, whenever if we really wanted to.
Why are there so many success stories of white folk “making it rich” and so many stories of people of color being “gang bangers and criminals”? Us white folk need to wake up because this is not just, this is not freedom, this is not the world I want to live in and neither should you. It will be hard because we white folk benefit from this system. Why give up something that is helping us win? I don’t have the answer to that, yet. I will grow and learn more about my whiteness and hopefully one day understand what it is to be a true ally for equality. But I do know I want to do what I can to help end this system that kills and destroys so many people.
If I had to summarize it all it would be this: It’s not “The American Dream”, it’s “The White American Dream”.

“Hey y’all” and not “hey you guys”

So as I am (attempting to) becoming more professional in my attire, lingo, and mannerisms, I’ve noticed something people of the Midwest (and others) love to say: “hey you guys”

Although I love the classics like “The Goonies”, there has to be some subtle changes to our everyday life if we ever hope to become more inclusive. The South may have it’s own grocery list of problems, but we do one thing right: we do not show gender preference in our common phrase of grabbing attention.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have traveled to other states outside the South and used the word “y’all” and got that “oh you’re not from around here look”. But at the same time I cannot begin to count the number of times already during my short stint in the Midwest the amount of times I have heard someone reference a group a people as being all male and they weren’t all male.

Now I know it is a nit picky thing but is it really? We live in a society where inequality is so deeply rooted and systems of oppression are so heavily ingrained into our habits. Although I personally don’t have a 5 step action plan to make the world a better place, I do know that I can use more inclusive words when interacting with society.

If you are a guy, imagine how weird it would be if you’re in a group and someone says “hey you girls”. Imagine how women feel when we mask their gender identity and enforce this crooked society we live in today.

So when you’re out and about, working with students, children, or coworkers, say y’all. It may sound like turpentine on your lips but I promise not only will you be more inclusive, but you will also get some really odd looks and can then explain yourself and spread the message about being intentional in breaking away the system of oppression we live in today.

Y’all come back now, ya hear.

I will not stand by idly

For too long I have sat still. For too long I have listened to the times of old. For far too long I have let the words of outsiders predetermine my life. Not any more.

For too long I have been told the greatness of the South has come and gone and no longer will she rise again. For too long I have been told that because I am a Mississippian, I am born to live in the dirt. For too long I have listened to statistics, studies, and history that tells me I will live a below-average life. Not any more.

For far too long, I have been an outcast, called a “racist”, taunted for my upbringing, and laughed at because of my state. Not any more.

No longer will I stand by idly as my state is condemned by others who have never graced her boarders. No longer will I stand by idly as the history of my great home is used to judge my present. No longer will I stand by idly as an “uneducated and closed minded” back-woods boy. Not any more.

No longer will I let you judge me on the actions of a few. No longer will I let the murmurings of few reverberate louder than my Rebel yell. No longer will I let our history control our future. Not any more.

Now I will look to a bright future. Now I will look to myself and those few Rebels around me willing to make the leap of faith. Now I will shatter all expectations, break all the myths, and destroy the stereotypes. Now is the time.

Now we should look at our actions. Now we should open our eyes, close our mouths, and listen to the voices that were once gagged and trampled. Now we should put away childish things and become the new (wo)man. Now is the time.

No longer will I be quite. No longer will I avert my eyes. No longer will I turn to the other cheek. No longer will I stand idly

No longer will I watch as Dixie is condemned to live a backwards life. No longer will I let my school be defamed. No longer will I let my first love be trampled on. It is time.

It is time for the new South to rise. It is time for all to be equal. It is time be leaders of industry. It is time to be teachers, doctors, and engineers of our own futures. It is time for the individual voices to rise and the masses to stop huddling. It is time for us to stop bickering, complaining, and crying. It is time.

It is way past time equality was brought to the banks of the Mississippi. It is way past time for the voice of reason to be heard in the bayou. It is way past time the presence of unity to be seen in the field of cotton. It is way past time for the leaders to rise tall among the pines and magnolias. It is way past time, Mississippi.

Let us rise together, on equal grounds, with words of wisdom, open minds, and voices raised. Let us respect ALL, and not just the few. Let us raise up our new South, show the world the love of Dixie, and make this great land one welcome for all. Let us look to the future, embrace our past, and learn from the present. Let us not stand by idly.