I chose to study international relations when I came to college because I’d always had a love for other cultures. I was especially drawn to Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
But studying the interactions between and within countries can be disheartening. It was in college that I really learned about colonialism—how the arrogance and greed of the white man has had woeful consequences even almost two hundred years later—and about modern imperialism.
I developed a kind of self-hatred for being white—the same race as the very people that ruined entire countries and the lives of the people within those countries. I was appalled and moreover ashamed that my race of people could have no sense of justice.
This was my initial reaction to recognizing that I am a race. Before college, I had never considered myself to be a race. I had never been lumped into a people group, rather I was seen as, and taught that I was, an individual first.
Studying global affairs requires the study of other cultures, other ethnicities, other races. It requires that you take a moment to stop and recognize your own role in the world and your own people group, what it comprises and who holds the power in it. My experience with international studies showed me that I was The Bad Guy since I was affiliated with the white West.
I started feeling hatred toward my own race, and it didn’t feel good. I wanted to remove myself, turn my skin inside out, do anything I could to disassociate myself with whiteness. The color became, for me, the archetype of evil.
I’ve moved past that feeling, but it has taken a while. I still have remnants of animosity toward white people who—knowingly or not—take full advantage of their White Privilege. But I have to remember that a vast majority doesn’t fully understand the hidden workings of the system. That kind of knowledge is not yet mainstream.
The feeling of shame that I have had for the color of my skin is disappearing because everywhere around me there are white people who do understand the system, who do believe in social justice and equality, and who do want to do what it takes to turn those values into reality. There are even those white Americans that don’t really understand that people of color are systemically marginalized but would do something about it if they did.
The beauty of race is that it is merely a social construct. Humanity, however, is something altogether different. It is for humanity that we fight for social justice—not for a race of people. Certainly we must recognize the implications of race as they can become barriers to justice and equality, but race does not ever bar us from breaking down those barriers. If anything, it can make us that much more of a force against them.