Conquering Racism (My Own!)    by   Ruth Utnage

If I asked you if you had racial biases, would you be honest? What about asking you if you were flat out racist? How would you answer? No? I’m not going to type from my soapbox and tell you that you are even if you say no, instead I will say this:

I am…And I’m working on it.

I was raised to be racist, it wasn’t superiority I was indoctrinated with, no, it was fear. Mainly men, men of color and even white men. Every man I knew was to be feared, at least every man I spent any time with, except one, his name was Rod, but even he had his flaws, just that explosive anger and violence wasn’t one of them.

I went on to marry a woman who was half Alaskan Native and black, we had three children, all of whom are mixed, beautifully. By those standards I couldn’t be racist, right? Wrong. I, like many people, was simply in denial and even blind to it. I had friends in many skin tones after all. But this was just a glass house that came crashing down when I began to experience discrimination because I was a trans person. When people would make comments about the trans community, “but not you Ruth, your cool.” I remembered thinking how many times I had said that about brown people or black people. It hurts to be viewed as “other”. I don’t ever want to hurt someone, not me or anyone. I’ve hurt enough. I want to heal.

So I’ve decided to dig deep into this and instead of just being aware that biases exist within me, I’m calling them out and whenever I recognize them I humble myself and acknowledge them, then I apologize. More to the point, I step out of my comfort zone. I challenge myself to learn about others and you know what, it feels good. No, it feels great!

I have come to love some of the people I’ve spoken to. I know their stories and they know mine, we embrace one another’s hopes and dreams and spend time laughing about crashing one another’s most important moments. I want to speak at the United Nations, my friends, my family actually, want to be there to both support and embarrass me and you know what, I want them there. Even as I write this my eyes swell up with emotion because I remember a time, before I was taught to fear and hate, when race wasn’t recognized by me and I have to tell you that getting back to that mentality feels good.

I only wish I had addressed it sooner.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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