In response to the ongoing discussion on racial representation in children's books, I'm continuing to reflect directly (beginning with this post) on the topic of white socialization and racial identity (especially the unconscious parts), for clues about how we got to this point and how we might move forward.
White people need to talk more about the topic of race - with other white people.
We can examine the messages we got (or didn't get), express the thoughts we have (but don't dare say), admit the mistakes we've made (or are making), and be candid about our ignorance and fears. All these attempts give us practice getting comfortable with a topic that many of us were raised to avoid.
It can feel awkward and artificial; as in learning any new language, some of the attempts we make may seem silly or forced. But the alternative is to continue to demand that people of color deal with race in a way that keeps us comfortable, mostly by not calling attention to it. (And I have doubts about the depth of that comfort. In my experience, many white people carry deep anxiety about race just below the surface, but the fear that we'll be exposed keeps us from daring to address it.)
Refusing to directly address race is one more way of insisting on a white world view. One of the reasons white people are uncomfortable with a lot of race talk is because most of us didn't grow up racialized, so it feels unfamiliar or difficult or even dangerous (how soon before I put my foot in my mouth and say something that appears racist?). But when we object to that frame, when we complain about people playing the "race card," when we talk about not "seeing" race, we're once again imposing white privilege (see this quote).
In this country, just about everyone else's identity is racialized - to a great degree, by the white majority. For most Americans of color, race consciousness is a daily, unavoidable fact of life. White people are the only ones who have the option of thinking about race or not; choosing remedial racialization is one way of stepping away from white privilege.
Here's a vision of what it can look like when white people get comfortable with the topic of race: transracial adoption expert John Raible's "Checklist for Allies Against Racism."
We can't get to the beloved community - to "just human" - by ignoring all the stuff that's in our way and pretending it's not there. We can begin the journey at any moment, shedding the accumulated baggage so that we can experience true community.