No matter how racially sensitive any given white person may be, they will never have the experiences that people of color have every day of our lives. As adults of color, most of us are just used to it. If we are activists, we speak out about it. In our daily lives, we generally say nothing just to get along. After all, we realize that this is how the world is, and we have to live in it. However, no matter how many times you experience racism, you never forget the first time you realize it matters that you’re black. Luckily, we have powerful voices like CNN’s Van Jones to remind the rest of the world that racism is not dead.
On a clip from CNN’s new digital series, The First Time I Realized I was Black, the host tells a tale of being in high school, where he and his classmates are in a hotel room on a school trip. That was the first time he realized that it mattered that he was black. Jones says of the situation:
“We were sitting in this hotel room waiting for the buses to come and get us. and I was drinking a Coke. Everybody was drinking soda, everybody was laughing.”
Jones then says he left the room for a minute, and then returned. Later, on the return trip home, one of the white girls from the group was crying, and Jones asked her why. The girl told him:
“They told me later that everybody in the room spat in your Coke while you were outside.”
Jones goes on to say of the effect the experience had on him:
“I think the hard part about that was that I had no clue that whole trip that anybody had anything negative to say or any bad thoughts about me. I thought these were my friends.”
After they showed Jones telling his story, he said to CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, whom he had been talking about the segment with, of how those experiences shape how you walk in the world:
“It just gives you a certain suspicion or concern.”
He then goes on to use and criticize the line that people of color hate hearing from white folks:
“Oh, I don’t see color. but you’ve had these experiences and you just don’t know.”
Van Jones is a million percent correct. Racism comes in many forms, and you almost never know FOR SURE that someone isn’t a racist. You don’t have to be in a sheet and hood or dropping n-bombs to be a racist. If only the folks with white privilege understood that.
Watch the clip below:
Featured image via video screen capture