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Day 3: Defining My Own Narrative

By Kaitlyn Whiteside

Today I came to terms with being White.

I sit on the bus beside these incredible riders, both young and old, and I hear their stories about oppression, discrimination, and racism. I think about my background, searching for some story to offer as a condolence, an explanation, a possible similarity of struggle but all I come up with time and time again is privilege, luck, and incredible circumstance. By all accounts I have lived the ultimate American, White, middle-class life: stay-at-home-mom, private school, family all around, college education… love and support surrounding my each and every decision. For most of the afternoon I wallowed in misunderstanding. How can I even sit on this bus and pretend to belong here? How can I possibly relate to challenges and obstacles that these people have faced and more importantly, will continue to face once we leave New Orleans and go home. If I wanted to, I could forget I ever stepped foot on this bus, forget I met these incredible people, and go back to Atlanta to my friends, my sorority, my job and let “the race debate” be something I save for intellectual play time. But for people of color, they’ll go home and without question, whether they like it or not, will continue to face these issues every minute of every day. I felt like a fraud sitting around the table tonight, an idealistic do-gooder, desperate to somehow understand and turn this cause, their cause, into my cause. But I don’t want to be an ally. I don’t want to watch the struggle play out from the sideline as I cheer on without real involvement. I want to be an activist, an innovator, a problem-solver. My whiteness must become irrelevant. I want to get drawn in not by default or accident of birth, I want to get drawn in, like Joan, because I want to make my home a better place and for right now, my only option is to do that in the skin I was born in.

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4 responses to “Day 3: Defining My Own Narrative”

  1. LaShonda

    10th May, 11

    Kaitlyn-thanks for sharing your perspective-as uncomfortable as it is, I applaud you for hanging in there and committing to a more socially just society. I can’t wait to hear more of your experiences on this journey!

  2. Rebecca Littlejohn

    11th May, 11

    Kaitlyn, your post made me cry because I remember the exact moment that happened to me in college. It’s a long story I won’t share here, but that moment changed my involvement in the anti-racism, pro-justice movement forever. Your Whiteness will never become irrelevant, but it can become a tool as well as a burden. We can only be who we are; knowing fully who you are, as a White person, is crucial to making justice real. Refusing to deny the existence of White privilege and working to resist it can be your contribution. That is something only White people can make happen. If not you, who? Looking forward to meeting you in Anniston!

  3. Delisha Whitesides

    12th May, 11

    This was really inspiring to read. I was just wondering where your family was from. I’m a black Whitesides & had never heard of a white Whitesides. Interesting…

  4. Paul Todd

    12th May, 11

    Hang in there Kaitlyn! I am a white child of a black neighborhood in 1970s Atlanta, so I have an inkling of your “discomfort.” Diversity workshops often involve discussing times you discovered you were “different” than people around you, and this week you are discovering a lot about that experience. Ride on!