I’m a very diverse person. I come from both a Jewish and Christian background and I’m very interested in the Muslim religion and culture. I have been in many different churches of a variety of denominations, Messianic and reform synagogues, and mosques, including the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the third holiest site for Muslims, falling behind Mecca and the Dome of the Rock. I was taught from a young age to always respect people of other religions, cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds, simply because they are fellow human beings and deserve such.
This is why I’m always so taken aback whenever I run across racism, because the color of one’s skin is always the last thing on my mind.
I recently ran across an article that talked about white privilege in America. It claimed, among other things, that white people are born with a backpack of privileges that they have not worked for and do not deserve, but they receive it nevertheless, simply because they are white. This backpack of tools helps them achieve goals that minorities cannot even dream of reaching, the article went on.
I remember reading the article and blinking. Having just received my Bachelor’s Degree with a 3.9 GPA (and a healthy amount of student loans!) I would have loved to have been able to reach into this bag and pull out a treasure so that maybe I wouldn’t have had to work my tuchus off during the past four years. I’d love to possess it now as I attempt to find a good job so that I can pay for grad school in the fall, after taking out (yet another) student loan.
Now, let me be explicitly clear when I say that I understand that, having been able to go to college, receive my degree, study abroad, and go to grad school, I am in a minority. There are people who can only dream of attending college for a semester, let alone for the past four years as I have been able to do. I do not take that for granted for a second.
Having never been a racial minority, I also can’t address the issues they face. Racism is a real and ugly thing; I won’t even attempt to deny that. I can’t (and won’t attempt to) address what minority groups face, but I can say with certainty that I have not accomplished what I have simply because of the color of my skin. To say so about me (or any other white person) is racist, pure and simple.
At my school’s Partnership Dinner in April, I was blessed to have been invited and have the chance to listen to Ben Carson, a man I greatly admire and respect. His autobiography Gifted Hands details how he overcame his troubled youth in inner-city Detroit, growing up to become an incredible neurosurgeon credited as being the first surgeon to successfully separate twins joined at the head.
When asked about what it takes to become successful, his answer was one of the most encouraging answers that I filed away to remember when I become discouraged.
“A person can be born with the world handed to them on a silver platter. They can have every privilege imaginable, but all of that is pointless if they don’t set goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Similarly, people who are born with nothing, as I was, can achieve whatever they put their mind to if they work hard enough.”
His answer takes gender out of the equation.
It makes one’s religion a moot point.
It makes ethnicity irrelevant.
One of my professors had probably the best view on this touchy subject. She said, “There are a variety of ethnicities that can and should be appreciated for their beauty, but there is only one race: the human race. Sometimes, we forget that.”
We’re all from the human race. Let’s remember that and extend each other the love, grace, and respect that we all deserve, rather than tearing each other down.