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Racism: Views of a WASP

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Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 42 years experience.

I guess I'm part of the problem, because I have been blind.

Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation were overturned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I was 8 years old.

I was raised WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant), but I was also raised to understand that skin color is just that; skin color. Just like hair color, it had no special meaning. I had only one Black classmate until high school. I remember coming home from school to find my mother sobbing because Martin Luther King had been assassinated.

I had friends in high school, both White & Black. We talked about music (band, choir, etc.). We talked about English classes, science classes, teachers that we liked or didn't like. We talked about what we wanted to do after high school. We debated, and solved the world's problems. (We were young!) I didn't care about the color of their skin. I still don't.

I remember being surprised at the many rumbles in high school. It was mostly Blacks vs Whites. When the cafeteria would start to look Black on one side and White on the other side, I would just pick up my lunch and wander off. Later, I would hear there had been a rumble in the cafeteria.

Why were they so angry (both groups)? I didn't get it. My Black friends didn't understand why I was so surprised. They had been living with discrimination all along. But I had never seen it. Part of that - MOST of that - was because I was surrounded by people who looked like me. Even if some of them were racist, they didn't show it around me.

Now, I'm in my 60s. I still don't see color on an individual scale. You are my friends, white or black. But I do see that Blacks and Hispanics - among others - do experience discrimination.

I have not seen overt racism, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I do speak up when I hear racism expressed. This doesn't happen often. People automatically clean up their speech around me. They don't cuss or swear. This is true even for those who do cuss & swear when they don't realize I'm in earshot. So I would not expect a person who is a racist to express that around me.

I have a very expressive face; my emotions show. I can keep a secret, but people will know that I have a secret. Without thinking about it, I give instant feedback. Maybe that's a good thing?

I'm not segregated any more. I live in a mixed neighborhood, mostly White/Black/Hispanic. They're friends; some are just acquaintances. We don't have racial trouble on my street that I know of. Trouble with drugs, other crime? Yeah, we have that. Poverty seems to be the common ground when it comes to crime.

I work with nurses who are White or Black. My clients are mostly White, Black, or Hispanic. Race just doesn't come up at work. At least, it doesn't come up around me.

I'm trying to see if racism exists around me, at my work. I'm trying to see what I - as an individual - should be doing to stop racism.