I recognize my privilege, and I choose to look past it

I am a white millennial male who attends a conservative, private Christian university. My hometown of Lumberton, Texas, was over 95 percent white as of April 19, 2015, according to statisticalatlas.com. I have little to no idea what it is like to be the subject of discrimination.

The only instance of discrimination against myself that I can remember is when I was attending daycare as a 4-year-old. One of my best friends Demetri was black, and one day he told me that I was the “wrong color.”

My mom picked me up from school that day, and I was distraught. I told her why, and since then, we’ve discussed that incident several times. She had no idea what to say in response that day. She had always taught me that we are all equal and that we are all God’s children, and I guess she never thought she’d be put in a situation where she needed to console her child because he was discriminated against, especially that early in life. After all, I am white.

Because discrimination has never been a factor in my everyday life, I have not cared like I should. To the minorities reading this: I have not done all that I can do for you. I feel like if I’m to gain any credibility within my message, I have to address the fact that I did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. In short, I saw no option that I felt was good for our country. I only would have voted for one side to prevent the other from getting elected, and I still accomplished just as much on that front by choosing to remain silent.

The bottom line is that I have not cared about people outside of my social circle like I should. I interact with my friends, who are mostly white, my colleagues within the journalism department, who are mostly white, and my church, who (you guessed it) are mostly white. While I have not been actively racist, I have stood by and done nothing of significance to help stunt the progression of racism in our country.

Growing up in a primarily white area and attending a primarily white school caused a certain level of blindness in me. I was entirely unaware of how prevalent racism actually was outside of my protective white bubble.

When President Barack Obama was running for re-election in 2012, my family and I got the chance to meet him at one of his rallies in Houston. It was a fantastic opportunity and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

While that was a very pivotal experience in my life, I was scared to tell my friends at school or even talk about it with certain family members because I was worried of what they might say. In fact, one of my best friends at school told me the day after I shared that information with him that I “should’ve killed that n—-r when [I] had the chance.”

I knew that was wrong. I told myself that I wasn’t like that and that I’d never say those types of things. I wish I could say that throughout my life, I have been strong enough to stay true to that promise, but that’s simply not the case.

Throughout my high school days, I made racist jokes around friends and even laughed with family members when they told them. This was the norm I was dealt at the time, and I molded myself to it.

In 2013, I graduated high school and moved on to attend Baylor University. Here, I made friends, took on more adult responsibilities, started classes and, most importantly, realized how racist I was.

A friend of mine that lived only miles away from me in Southeast Texas ended up at Baylor as well, and he phrased it perfectly: “I knew racism was bad, but I didn’t fully understand what racism was.” He had to hear people outside of his hometown explain to him what racism was to realize it was wrong to say and do these things. I relate entirely to that sentiment. It had never crossed my mind that those jokes I told in high school made me racist, because, after all, I wasn’t out committing hate crimes or using those slurs to attack minorities.

In the wake of the presidential election, there has been a tremendous amount of division and turmoil throughout the nation. Due to Donald Trump’s rhetoric throughout his campaign, many minorities feel scared, unsafe and, most importantly, unloved by our society.

Folks, unfortunately Donald J. Trump will be the 45th president of the United States of America. Our democratic nation has voted, and he won the race fair and square. I personally believe it’s time to stop protesting that. If you wanted to protest a Trump presidency, you should have done so a year ago when he was eating up primetime television with his standoffish, bullying demeanor. It’s too late to protest him now because America voted him into the White House. If we are going to peacefully protest, let’s protest things like the judicial system and how it blatantly favors whites over minorities and the wealthy over the poor. Let’s speak out against the insane racism that has spread to the public eye since Election Day. Let’s force a conversation.

My point is that we can’t change who our next president will be. That was the point of voting. What we do have the ability to change is how we treat one another. We have the ability to stand up against racists and bigots and fight institutional and individual racism. I think for those things to happen, people like me have to actually start caring in a way that lends itself to action, even when it may be inconvenient to and even when it won’t directly affect their everyday lives.

It took racism coming to my campus for me to care enough to write this column. That should not be the case. A girl was pushed off the sidewalk and called a racial slur less than a mile from my apartment. Unfortunately, that’s what it took to get me to speak up.

To the LGBTQ person, the Muslim, the African-American, the Mexican-American/Latino, woman or any other members of a marginalized group, I will never pretend to know what it’s like to be in your shoes. I can’t possibly know what it feels like to be scared for my life because of the results of an election, because in our society, I’m set up perfectly. It’s an unfair reality, but it’s true.

If you feel scared right now because of this election cycle and the way people are acting, I want to help you. While I feel that impulse, I really have no way of knowing what I can do to help make you feel safer or fight racism because I’ve never had to consider it.

I know there are more people like me than there are people unlike me in this country. I’ve had many conversations with white, conservative, college-aged people who want to help out in this push against racism. I’m asking for your help, minorities. Tell us how we can assist you in this transition.

I’ve heard about the safety pin movement in some northern states where white people wore safety pins on their shirts to let minorities know that they are “safe” with them. From gauging the reactions of minorities, that is perceived as another example of the white community attempting to glorify themselves and looking for a pat on the back from marginalized groups. I understand that point of view, even though I think most of that movement was well-intentioned. Since I feel that perception matters far more than intention, I’m just asking you all straight up: What can we do to help?

Because I am white, there will be racists who aren’t scared to say racist things about marginalized groups around me. I can speak up in those situations and take action against them. Even if a member of the group being degraded was in that same situation, the dialogue that would follow would be much different. My point is that there are ways we can help, so let’s work together to try to find them because I don’t want us to be put into a similar situation in 2020.

I would like to also caution minorities about making assumptions about how much we can help, or are willing to help, because every demographic that I’m a part of would tell you I’m not willing to serve this cause. If you knew the school I went to or the church I attended, you may think I hate LGBTQ people because there is a perception that aligns with that. If you only knew my hometown, you may think I hate black people because there are people from my area that do. Please don’t assume we are all bad. And on top of that, please don’t assume that our racism can’t be corrected. I’m living proof that it can.

No one is out of reach, because I truly believe most of the racism I’ve seen has come from ignorance. If we let them know that their actions are not ok and specifically outline what racism is, they can no longer blame it on ignorance. If they are still acting the same way after those discussions, it will become blatant stupidity.

I am a white millennial male who attends a conservative, private, Christian university. Tell me what I can do to help.