The Real Truth about my White-Bodied Womanness

I’m a white-bodied woman.

I did well in school when I was growing up. People never acted shocked about the way I spoke or behaved. Everyone at school looked like me.

I’m a white-bodied woman.

When I was in high school and I went to the park with a group of friends after dark, the police officers who stopped us assumed good intentions and we were just asked to leave. None of us were ever in any type of danger. I never felt cold fear crawl up my spine. I never thought “I’m not going to make it home tonight.”

I’m a white-bodied woman.

I received a full-ride college scholarship. There were 20 of us in my class. We were ALL WHITE KIDS. I didn’t blink an eye. And the campus feminist group that I was involved in for four years? That was basically a bunch of white women too. Everyone still looked like me.

I’m a white-bodied woman.

When I had my babies, I wasn’t at a higher risk for maternal death because of my skin color. My babies weren’t at a higher risk for death within the first year of their lives. I didn’t have to worry about my race at all and how it could affect my experiences as a home birth mother or with any other medical professionals.

I’m a white-bodied woman.

I have never once feared for my children’s safety because they have an ivory-colored immunity wrapped around their bones. I went years without even thinking about any of this. I was so wrapped up in being a mom, wading through my own childhood trauma, and trying to survive my abusive marriage. I think the only time that race really came up during a span of several years was when I felt terrible for the people of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and said I would totally adopt a Haitian orphan. Lord, that “white-savior-flavored” foolery particularly hurts to admit.

I’m a white-bodied woman.

When I chaperoned my daughter’s field trip to the Abraham Lincoln memorial, it literally didn’t even cross my mind that some of the exhibits would be upsetting for Black students. Did you catch that? I didn’t think about the fact that the field trip would involve intense imagery of slavery. It was the LINCOLN MEMORIAL! What on earth?! I had two black students in my chaperone group and, when we turned the corner to see a very graphic mannequin exhibit of an enslaved family being separated and sold, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say. I left the kids on their own to process it and moved on.

I’m a white-bodied woman.

My white-bodied father is still living even though he has had countless run-ins with the police. He has walked onto other people’s private property. He has started fires wherever he deemed appropriate. He has threatened to murder people, to chop people up, and guess what? He’s never been shot to death because someone (either an officer or a civilian) feared for their lives. Tell that to the family of Steven Taylor from San Leandro…

I’m a white-bodied woman.

I have sat back as black and brown people have been murdered and brutalized. I have continued to scroll through my Facebook feed after a quick head shake and and an even faster sympathetic thought thrown in for good measure. I have been complacent while I benefited from a system built to provide me with an advantage because of my low-level melanin. I definitely knew racism existed. I never said that I “didn’t see color.” I saw it. But I was still blind. I realize now that I have absolutely been living life in a state of ignorant, institutionalized white-bodied bliss without totally recognizing it and certainly not acknowledging it.

I’m a white-bodied woman…

And I think I’m starting to process what that really means.

Changing our world isn’t about just waving a “Black Lives Matter” sign at a protest or financially supporting the organizations on the front lines of dismantling white-body supremacy. There is a quiet, deeply personal aspect of this movement too – a point in the process where white-bodied people have to start to analyze the world they’ve experienced and ask why. For my white-bodied friends, I sincerely hope you’re doing the work. Black and Brown lives depend on it.

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