I’m white and uncomfortable

By Isabelle Barrett

I woke up with the knowledge that I would have to hear about race today. I would have to listen to my brothers and sisters of color mourn the end of Barack Obama’s presidency and grieve with them as we enter this new and frightening administration.

I am supposed to stay silent, right? As a white person, I shouldn’t take up space in a time solely devoted to the topic of race relations in this country…right?


I spent my morning telling myself to be a good ally and listen. That’s important. To listen to the struggles of those I could never truly understand. To listen to the needs and wants of my black and brown brothers and sisters.

But I couldn’t shake the idea that I would have no clue what to do once I got that information. In short, I wanted to know how I could be a better ally because I wasn’t sure if just listening would actually do any good.


Myself asking Dr. Dyson about being a white ally. (Photo Credit: Jack Hellie)

After the first speaker, Michael Eric Dyson, I had to ask him. So I did. I acknowledged how I felt it wasn’t fair that I was white and taking up space in this discussion. I asked him how I can be a better ally.

His answer? Speak.

I was pretty shocked, too.

Why do I even deserve the chance to talk about race if I’m someone benefitting from the system? Well, it is exactly that reason I need to speak out. As Dr. Dyson put it, there is a “surplus of whiteness.” We need to use it, I need to use it to better the lives of my fellow American citizens.

The entire exchange felt very similar to something Spiderman’s Uncle Ben had said:

“With great power comes great responsibility”

So, I have this power that comes along with my skin color, that I clearly don’t want. Thinking about this white privilege that I didn’t choose makes me so uncomfortable. I guess that is why we need to keep talking about it, though. These talks shouldn’t be comfortable. They should make you take a good, hard look at yourself and the place that you are in.

I guess that is what I’ll have to do so I can be a better ally, activist, and person. I need to listen to the voices on all sides. I need to try and fully empathize with what they are saying. I need to speak 0ut about my beliefs not only on their behalf but in conversations with them.

In short, I need to be white and uncomfortable so I can make change happen.

3 thoughts on “I’m white and uncomfortable

  1. Pingback: Unity Beyond Race | Drake in D.C.

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