An Open Letter: Dear Racist
(Disclaimer: These are feelings from the heart based on actual experiences. They are not intended to offend, but rather to enlighten so everyone can have an understanding of how detrimental racism is and how we can work through it. My goal is to bring peace through honesty.)
It has been on my mind to write to you for some time now. I figured if I start the conversation, there would be a higher possibility of finishing it. I have had the hardest time processing the hate, violence, and death — I always do. By analyzing and trying to make sense of the news, protests, and the beliefs of others, my mind has gone haywire.
The need to write this comes from a yearning to release it all. I must get this pain and love off my chest, I have to let you know, and I want to let you in.
I have learned to accept both your subtle and overt discrimination, but when I’m alone, I am consumed by your harmful actions.
The raw emotions: hurt and anger
We cannot begin to understand the impact of racism on our identities without examining our stories from all emotions. Anger cannot be resolved until we acknowledge it, and work through it.
All of my life, I have been hung on your actions. Your words have tortured me. You have made me soak in my tears. Why — oh why, hasn’t the well run dry? I have been drowning for an eternity.
I have questioned my existence and want to banish yours. I feel the nasty, bitter, and inhuman crawl of your hatred every time I look at my children’s sweet faces. Every day, I am exasperated in worry for our children, their children, and generations to follow. This fear and turmoil will live on, even when I am gone.
You have made me angry to the point that I released that anger onto my skin. I internalized racism and thought, “I am less of a person because of my skin color.”
I have seen how some are treated more nicely than myself in typical situations like going out to dinner. I have been rushed out of a meal when I was given my food and check in under five minutes. The attitude of the waitress made me feel unwelcome. I felt less than the people around me, who were treated with patience and kindness.
Even when there is a time I am not discriminated against directly by a live encounter with you, I see myself in the countless others who are being tortured by you. I feel sick in the stomach right now, thinking about it. I recall all the painful memories of the past and worry about the future.
But what do I do?
Do I hate you? Why am I still conflicted?
I wish I could inhale and make you not racist. I want to exhale and make you feel love unlimited by the color of my skin, beliefs, values, or religion. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t give a damn about what you think. I could, I suppose, but I can’t because it stabs me in the face. You don’t see the pain pouring out of me, not even in a blink.
My existence, my right to breathe and my life is worth less than yours.
It doesn’t just hurt — what you do, how you feel, and what you believe —
It carves my internal organs into bite-sized pieces you probably wouldn’t feed to your dogs. You keep me up for the entire process to hear my screams and celebrate in glory. You sleep soundly in your worry-free zone. You believe this is what is right, and this is what I deserve. How?
My dreams are non-existent. Asleep, or awake, I exist in nightmares.
You murder our children. Our children are dead. You break our families apart. We are dead. You incarcerate us. We are dead. You blame us. We are dead. We try to fight back. We are dead. We can’t walk, and if we are still, it means only one thing — we are dead. You don’t give a damn.
We are dead.
I write this with fragments of me dead, dead as all those who have died by the hands of your hate.
I hate how you just carry-on like nothing is wrong. You and your children are protected and sheltered. Meanwhile, my children and I are hurting and suffering.
You are free to care only for yourself, and you do just that. Nothing is free for me, down to the air I breathe, and I pay the price with my ashes.
But how can I forgive you when you murder our children? How can we forgive when you walk free while we repeatedly cry because innocent children are gone and stolen from their mother’s embrace?
A pipeline of love severed.
There is a feeling of guilt within us for our children’s death because we could not protect them. We failed to uphold our most significant responsibility in which God entrusted us. We blame ourselves. We must live our remaining days without our children at the forefront of our love.
We are imprisoned on earth without our children. Is this freedom?
Would you allow yourself, for even a moment to imagine if it were your child?
Your wrath of disgust has festered inside me. How can you not think about the lives you take and the families you hurt? Don’t you have a family too? Maybe we should pile the bodies at your doorstep because burying and cremating the corpses keeps them out of your eyesight — out of your mind, while they plague mine.
But what do I do?
Do I hate you? How am I still conflicted?
I’ve reached my limit on the suffering you’ve inflicted since I was born, but I am forced to endure more because the pain inflicted is endless in its catering.
But what do I do?
Do I hate you?
I battle with myself because the hate is lurking in my mind. It sends chills down my spine; it keeps talking to me. I hear it, but then I can’t see clearly. I go blind with rage.
I lose hope.
I lose myself.
Then my life is all that you say it is.
Then nothing matters. Nothing.
If I let anger consume me, it will turn me into an evil vessel used to take revenge.
“May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion. We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds.” — Marianne Williamson
Transforming anger and pain into resolution
As I hold onto who I am, I lay my angered raw emotion down to rest. I must move on from my pain to reach a resolution. My strength, vulnerability, compassion, and empathy will see me through.
Hate is a sickening disguise for misunderstanding, brought to life by anger. I see how it ignites embers and grows to burn down forests of people through ignorance. A lack of understanding of ourselves projected onto others. An inability to move past anger keeps us stagnant.
While it is necessary to acknowledge and work through anger, we must not let the narratives that use anger to instigate violence control us. We must stop relying on the faulty and diminishing stories taught to us.
The ones that tell us it’s okay to treat each other this way. The ones that insist our perspective is the only perspective. The ones that provoke us not to care for each other. Those that make it easy for us to fight with each other — those that count on the division between us.
Our stories, and the vulnerability it takes to share them, are so powerful; they can convey our perspectives without confrontation.
By working through anger and being open-minded, we can conclude there is no room for such painful and dividing expressions. Only then will the doors of empathy and love fly open.
Making a conscious decision to love requires a lot of self-reflection. I asked myself many times, who am I? Once I have my answer, I have to believe in myself. When we believe in ourselves, we gift other people the opportunity to believe in themselves.
I have made the mistake of keeping things inside of me because I felt like no one could relate or understand. It was wrong of me to assume this and base what I do around it. If someone can relate to me, it is rewarding because they feel seen and heard.
If someone disagrees with me, it is still rewarding as they are taking the opportunity to define their character (whatever that may be) and stand up for what they believe in.
We must genuinely own and value our experiences such that we don’t feel the need to prove the righteousness of our views to others. Our stories, and the vulnerability it takes to share them, are so powerful; they can convey our perspectives without confrontation.
We must understand that all sides are right in some way, shape, or form as a person’s individual experiences have helped to cultivate who they are. We must become adamant in figuring out the truth and use that knowledge to respect and support each other.
“When will our conscience grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Now. The answer is now.
Throughout my life, there have been many crossroads which could have molded me into a racist. Those moments of reckoning have given me a chance to define my character as a person. They presented me with two options: use hate and anger for revenge or use compassion and empathy for love.
Every time I was bombarded with anger and hostility for the direct injustice against myself and others, I acknowledged that others are in pain themselves. The pain they have, could have been mine.
When we listen to each other’s pain, we come to the profound realization that we are both human, we both make mistakes.
Your story doesn’t take away from mine; it becomes my story too. We can battle our demons together.
I come willing to share my pain and struggles. I have blind faith in sharing my story with you that maybe one day, you will share yours with me.
We must try our best to understand the ultimate cure for hate is love.
“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”
— Ben Sweetland
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My dad couldn’t handle the massive task of being a father. To gamble on the horses, my dad ransacked the apartment to steal the money my mother would hide. He was sick. Although he did the best he could, that unfortunately amounted to nothing.
My mother would not be able to survive with two children and no money. She could not tolerate his mental and physical abuse any longer; they divorced when I was five years old.
She worked tirelessly to provide for us. During this time, we had many babysitters, but I will never forget Rita. Rita was always on the phone. The conditions of Rita’s home was a substandard environment for children. There were no couches or tables for us to sit by for meals, but there were many cockroaches. We weren’t allowed to make any noise, watch television, laugh, and we couldn’t play.
We would often forget about the rules but not without consequence. Rita would line us up, shoulder to shoulder in order of size, like stair steps. Then, she demanded we put our hands out. She would walk down the line, yelling we were making too much noise while hitting us with a metal pot spoon.
I was confused. I was in pain. I was scared of going there every day. My eyes opened even more to the suffering the world had to offer. I learned that some people don’t care about children to the extreme extent of harming them.
It ripped my heart out then, and to this day, I sometimes have to shut the pain and the thoughts of chaos out to protect myself.
At the time, I wanted nothing more than to kick Rita’s ass. I was angry with the cruelness I had been a part of and witnessed. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized Rita had her fair share of beatings. My initial anger towards Rita transformed into empathy for her.
The other children, who were under Rita’s watch, and beaten too, weren’t of the same race as I. She excluded no one. While her skin color was different from mine, prejudice was not why she decided to inflict pain on children. The problem stemmed from her life experiences.
She chose to let anger get the best of her.
I chose to empathize with her tortured soul and not allow my anger to turn into violence towards people of any race.
“Violence will only increase the cycle of violence.” — Dalai Lama
When I started junior high school, I wore cheap sneakers. I was one of a few kids who didn’t have a pair of Nike’s — the ultimate coolness symbol — and was ridiculed for it. I became scared to attend school and often ended up in the dilapidated bathroom, shedding tears.
Other kids didn’t want to be my friend, even if they weren’t making fun of me. I confided in my mother and pleaded for help, but she couldn’t afford the sneakers.
When I had enough of the torture, self-pity and pain, I decided to do something about it. I got creative and started an at-home tutoring business. I had two clients, and over four sessions, I saved $80. I purchased my first pair of Nike’s, and then I quit.
The bullies chose to let anger get the best of them.
I decided to leave revenge and hate with the bullies. To get them off my back, I figured out how to get what I wanted without partaking in the same harmful behavior that was done to me. I couldn’t imagine making someone else feel how I felt, so I didn’t.
I chose to show empathy and compassion to myself, and by not retaliating, I showed love to the bullies.
In terms of the larger context of this piece, this is my alternative to anger and hatred.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.” — Dorothy Thompson
Tragically 9/11 happened in my sophomore year. I will never forget the events of that horrible day. I was so upset and angry with the attackers who decided to take innocent people’s lives, and I wanted revenge. I could feel the hate consuming me, but then something happened that reeled me in.
I was crossing a big intersection with the traffic light on my side. As I was passing, I heard tires screeching, and before I knew it, a car was an inch in front of me. I pulled my stomach in as far as I could while my heart skipped five beats.
The car stopped, and the driver was directly in front of me. “Go back to your f-ing country, you f-ing terrorists.”
At the time, I wanted to run him over and hock up a nasty one and bathe him in it, but ultimately, it wouldn’t make me feel better. I wished my skin color wasn’t what it was, so I could be spared from the extreme cruelty.
That night, I cried myself to sleep. I remember fearing for my life after this. I questioned if I would ever feel safe again in the country I was born in and now cast out of with hatred.
I had no idea I could be categorized with terrorist killers.
Unfortunately, I was on his side before he did what he did; I shared his hate until I was on the receiving end. I had no idea I could be categorized with terrorist killers. In his eyes, I was the one to blame.
How can I be viewed like this? Is the hate I just encountered one that I am supposed to mimic? How could this man not comprehend that I am an individual separate from the monsters?
After thinking about the answers to these questions, I couldn’t help but think he lost someone close to him in the tragedy.
He chose to let his anger rule and took it out on me because it was the only outlet he had. He judged me by allowing his pain to transform into anger and hostile behavior.
I decided not to take his ignorance, lack of understanding, and anger personally. A multitude of influences had failed him. I learned that my skin color was not the problem. Instead, it was his life experiences that he could not fight against, which pushed him down the road of hate.
I accepted my skin color as nothing less than his because of my ability to show empathy. Although I was hurt by his actions, I forgave him.
I did not use this experience as a reason to hate those within his race or any race. I promised myself I would never blame someone else for the actions of others.
We all stand as individuals — for good and the bad. We all have an equal choice in regards to both.
“It belongs to the very substance of nonviolence never to destroy or damage another person’s feeling of self-worth, even an opponent’s.” — Bernard Haring
On my way home from working at JFK Airport one evening, I parked my car on the corner and ran into the deli to grab some milk and cigarettes. It was a usual stop for me 2–3 times a week. As I walked out and approached the door to my vehicle, a man walked towards, and asked which way Lefferts Blvd was.
Without having any suspicions about the man, I turned to point him in the right direction when he told me to stay quiet, leave the keys, and back away from the car.
I followed his instructions because my life depended on it. He got into the car, and I made a precise point not to stare at his face. He sped off, and I was grateful to be crying in the middle of the street because I was still alive.
Yes, anger threatened my values once again. I hated this man for taking advantage of me and for taking what was mine. On the other side, I wondered what provoked him to do such a thing.
Although he chose to commit a crime and steal my car, he didn’t hurt me.
I chose empathy when I figured he needed the car more than I did. I let go of that hate and appreciated his non-violent approach. I was safe.
Maybe if I were afraid of people with his skin color, I would have noticed him and waited in the deli until he was no longer in sight. The carjacking would have never happened. I didn’t have that lens, though, and despite what happened, I never will.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
I come from a partially racist family. Although not all my family members are racists, those who are racist are very vocal about their beliefs. Their hate has influenced me since I was a little girl. My aunt married outside of our race, and was cast out of the family.
Would I follow the beliefs of the majority of my family? Would I cause pain to my aunt by abandoning her? She, who didn’t choose love under a microscope or checklist of hate but instead fell into the natural order of love and loved without boundaries?
I was fortunate. My mother showed me that real love is unconditional. Through the love she couldn’t forsake for her baby sister, she chose to accept her sister’s husband.
Inside of the family’s larger span, they excluded him, but my mother showed him and, more importantly, my sister and me, that love is limitless. Eventually, I met a man outside of my race, we fell in love and got married.
If it weren’t for my mother’s compassionate love, I could have adopted a hateful attitude. I could have been racist, just like the rest of my family. I would not have the beautiful blended family I have today.
My racist family members chose to spread hate.
I choose to spread love.
So, while it is easier to act out of anger and impulse, follow the crowd, or let our experiences shape us into the same monsters that tear us down, break us up, and cause us relentless pain, I’d like to offer you the same compassion and love my mother gave me. It is the same love that helped to guide me away from hateful paths.
The raw emotions: love, empathy, and compassion
I know love conquers all because it has for me. Without love, I would be powerless to the hateful thoughts I am exposed to regularly through experience.
Dehumanization threatens my belief system every damn day. It is only in the presence of love that I can remember a bigger purpose. I can hold onto living my mission of spreading love to those who need it.
I will not blame you for the hate you hold in your heart. I’ve owned it many times too. I know the possibility of righteous hatred because sometimes it’s all we can feel. Sometimes, hate is all we ever know. Sometimes, we can’t understand the possibilities love can provide because we haven’t taken or had the opportunity to understand.
We unintentionally and passively let hate consume our souls because we don’t know what it feels like to choose and benefit from love.
We lose faith in love.
I can wholeheartedly say that love feels more right than hate. It is no easy task to penetrate through hatred and find love, but it is possible. It’s scary wearing our hearts on our sleeves, but it comes with salvation.
When we can no longer imagine our actions causing pain to others, it all becomes clear, and then it becomes easy. We can diffuse hatred when we feel the pain of others as our own.
There is so much for me to understand about you. I don’t have the answers as they lie within you. I pray you can help me know your truth.
I cannot comprehend that anyone is entirely lost in their beliefs based on hatred.
Even while hate flourishes on the basis of skin color or other limiting reasons, you still exhibit love. You love those who share in your shade of color. I admire that love because, even though limited, it is not any less. Love is love. The love you give to others shows me how to hope in uncertainty — to hope in you.
Are you capable of broadening your spectrum of acceptance into a limitless sea of love? I firmly believe so.
What do you feel when you love your parents, partners, children, and friends? Picture their smiles and feel their warm embrace for a moment.
Our purpose encompasses that feeling — that warm, fuzzy, smile-inducing rush that flows through us. I feel it too.
In direct opposition to division: I say, the more love, the merrier, the mightier.
The feeling of love makes life worth living when life itself is utterly bitter and harsh. Love holds our broken pieces together when experience tells us to be scared, angry, and violent. We habitually default to fear to protect ourselves, but we end up hurting ourselves and each other more.
We live in fear because we are afraid we won’t be loved. In love, we don’t have to fear. In love, we can question fear in all of its absurdity. In love, we can take comfort and have the courage to help each other. We must swallow our pride in faith and trust.
The reward for choosing love makes the battle within ourselves worth it. The path of finding love is uncomfortable as it requires us to challenge our beliefs. However, when we are brave enough to travel down that path to challenge the places we have learned to hate from, we win freedom from the lies.
When we divide ourselves, it is the only time we become less. I don’t want my children to risk their lives to fight with yours, and I don’t want your children to do the same either. They are all our children. Can we do this for them?
Our responsibility as individuals includes learning to love ourselves unconditionally. Then, we can shine that love into the world.
When abandoned, choose to love.
When beaten, choose to love.
When bullied, choose to love.
When abused and harassed, choose to love.
When betrayed, choose to love.
When hate is more abundant, choose to love.
When you stand alone, choose to love.
Under no circumstances are we to take away the choice to love by killing someone.
Choose to love yourself past all the wrong that has come your way. Choose to love yourself even when you have done wrong. I forgive you.
Choose love for every race because within and outside of every race, we must battle the evil that threatens the reputation and livelihood of people everywhere. Stand united with the good in yourself.
I choose to love when hate threatens to infiltrate everything I stand for. I choose to love when hate has already infiltrated everything you stand for.
I choose love for myself. I choose love for you.
The real atrocity in this world is not one of skin color, but of the evil in which no race is exempt.
In my eyes, a supreme race can only be possible when all members of the human race have no prejudice— one in which all are committed to loving without boundaries.
I hope you can dig into your own story, and in return, it shows you how to see.
“The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.” — Garth Brooks
I hope through hearing my story, you may start to believe in the possibility of love in which sight isn’t necessary.
Can we use our gift of sight to see the beauty and pain in each other?
I cannot understand the pain you have experienced, but I can begin to know if you allow me the opportunity. There is much to be healed, but it can be done with willingness and determination.
I know that going against the grain of hate isn’t typical in our society. It damn well needs to be though, and we can accomplish it together.
You are strong. You stand strong in your beliefs. I respect the firm stance you take, and I stand firm in my values too. However, I want to understand more. I want to know why you feel the way you do. I want to know what makes us so different that we should hate each other.
Is there anything I failed to take into consideration?
Is there anything I can do to help you feel the love I feel for all people? Is there anything I can do so we can love each other as equals?
Can you widen the horizon of love you already have with those who are closest to you? Can we make each other smile, share a meal, and watch our children run in the fields of unity?
I am asking because of everything I’ve witnessed and every good deed I have done, this is where I have fallen short. I never took the time to ask you.
I hope you can forgive me because I am truly sorry.
I extend my empathy to you as I have for everyone else — as my mother did for me. I refuse to let hate complete me and wreak havoc on my soul.
I choose to ask you, without judgment or assumption: What’s stopping you from loving me?
When we answer this question in unison, we can help each other love like never before. We can feel this love and celebrate together. We can remove glasses of hate and see a brighter day.
Our children will forge a new future in which hate can be driven out by our mutual willingness to do better, to be better. We can end the division that has plagued us throughout history.
The searing pain in which hate has given birth to a million evil thoughts in my mind, ranging from hating you to hating myself, has not and will not succeed.
I will trust myself. I will trust you. I will trust God.
It is of the same faithful forces in which the roots of a beautiful plant grow from within the darkness to see the light that I too have hope.
I will not forsake love, even when my experiences have propelled me towards hate.
I will love, even when I am hated.
I will not abandon love, even when it seems the world has.
“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” — Anne Frank
Now that you know I too have unhinged anger,
Now that I have shared some of my experiences, those which could have easily led me to a life of hate —
Now that you recognize I made a conscious choice to transform my raw emotions —
Now that you understand how I can still arrive at love —
Now that you realize I don’t hate you —
What will you do with your hate?
Without these people, this would have not been possible as they encouraged, supported, and helped me throughout the process. I am forever appreciative for their time, patience, and kindness.
You uplift me and keep my heart-strong. Thank you for the love you have given me. An infinite thanks to my devoted husband, Chris; my three wonderful children, Bella, Kaylee, and Lincoln; Amy Sarah; Gayle Kurtzer-Meyers; Michael Whalen and Stephen Dalton.