Something I’ve Learned

My name is Lily McCoy and I am a student at St. Cloud State University. Growing up in a small, majority white community, I did not know very much about racial issues until I started my education at SCSU – but, I did recognize racism and knew that it was a problem. Attending SCSU, I quickly developed relationships with people of many different ethnicities and nationalities with various cultures, traditions, and beliefs. I am very grateful to be a part of a community in which I can have such a diverse friend group. This has helped to greatly broaden my view of the world as I learn from other’s ideas, beliefs, worldviews, and lived experiences.

My eyes were also opened to the racial tensions and discrimination that is still so prevalent in our society today and how it is woven throughout the history of the United States. Since attending SCSU, I have also learned about concepts such as white privilege and have also become more aware of the privilege I have in our society that many of my friends do not.

My white privilege includes not regularly feeling judged on the basis of negative stereotypes, not having to wonder if I was turned down from a job or housing on the basis of my race, not having to fear police brutality, not being followed in stores, and not being insulted with racial slurs by people who don’t even know me. The history books are filled with people of my race and focus almost entirely on the history of the people in this country of my race. I also have access to a multitude of films, books, and other materials representing people of my race. I am not criticized for the volume of my natural hair, nor given the message that I cannot meet the societal standard of beauty due to the color of my skin. There are many more ways in which I am privileged and not because of anything I have done to attain it, but simply because I live in a society where racism is built into the structure of our social systems.

Along with privilege comes responsibility. I strongly believe that I have a responsibility to stand up against the injustices that I see around me and fight for the equal rights and opportunities for those who are discriminated against, marginalized, and oppressed. These issues will not go away if we pretend to be blind to them or remain ignorant. My white privilege should be used as a tool to help others, not a reason to ignore racism or feel guilty. I do not want to stand by while others are being oppressed, even if that has become the norm. I know that I will always have some biases and ignorance and can never fully empathize with people who experience racism, but I can continue to learn and understand more about how these issues affect the people around me, myself, and the society I live in.

I can be an effective ally to people of color by joining the fight for equality as well as listening to and believing their stories and experiences.