I’m in Hawaii for the first time and it’s even better than anyone had said.

The vibe is chill.

The people are awesome.

The sky is lit with colors I didn’t even think were possible.

And I’m getting the best tour of Oahu that not even money can buy.

Because I’m getting the local tour.

By people who live and love the land here.

At one point, my friends offer to take me to see the fancy neighborhood.

Who wouldn’t want to see how the rich side lives?!

I’m all in.

My “Jawaiian” (his term… half Jamaican, half Hawaiian) friend is driving and my Asian friend is sitting in the passenger seat.

I’m in the back behind tinted windows as we enter the block.

(I wouldn’t normally point out everyone’s race/color but it matters.)
Because, as soon as we entered the neighborhood, white people (young and old) yelled at us to get out. That we weren’t welcome here.

I was shocked.

Like for realsy reals shocked.

People with their tiny dogs in bow ties (the kind you might find in a purse) were YELLING at us to leave.

“Maybe it’s the car,” I thought. Like they don’t want “poorer” people in their space. But I spotted several cars just like the one my friend was driving.

“Maybe…” My mind grasped for another option and when it couldn’t find one, I vocalized my confusion to my friends.

“That’s racism, Deb. They don’t want a Black/Hawaiian man here. Happens all the time.”

Okay. Now I was really shocked.

It happens all the time.


I didn’t want to believe it.

Ignorant Deb wanted the happy world where racism only existed in the deep south or in the mouths of old people “who don’t know any better because of when they grew up.”

(Bullshit excuse, btw.)

And yet, my fragile white brain was being forced to reconcile in real-time the blatant racism being screamed at our car by more than one couple.

That was a pivotal moment for me.

(“Oh good! The white lady had a pivotal moment!” I can feel the eye rolls and I admit that I deserve them.)

Because it’s not like my friends of color hadn’t been telling me racism existed. They had.

It’s just that I hadn’t believed them.

Like many of us who have grown up with our worldviews and societal systems entrenched in white supremacy, I’d learned to dismiss the BIPOC experience as exaggerated.

Or, “They must have misunderstood.”

Or, on the worst level, “They’re just overreacting.”

Which I probably would have told myself if I hadn’t been a witness in the car.

I’m gonna take a breath to feel the shame of that right now. (It’s okay to feel shame when you get it this wrong. Just don’t get stuck there.)

But that moment opened my eyes and I haven’t been able to shut them since.

As a white person, it would be SO EASY to turn away, but I don’t want to.

I want to know what else I’m missing.

I want to learn more, see more, and do better.

I want to sit in the discomfort of questioning everything about my worldview and I’m okay feeling stupid, naive, ignorant, and even racist…

(Tackling white supremacy will do that to you… show you all the ways in which racism is subconsciously influencing your brain.)

…Because what I never want again is to be that someone who dismisses or doesn’t believe the experience of my friend.

Reflections of Racism is my uncomfortable look in the mirror to identify the roots of racism and white supremacy still active in my life. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not standing as a voice for anyone but me. I’m simply sharing my inner monologue in hopes that my failures, faults, missteps, and mistakes can help someone else see, challenge, and change the white supremacist ideologies influencing their world too.

White supremacy isn’t a system I chose; it was one I was born into. But you better believe I’m gonna do everything in my power to choose out, burn it down, and build something better in the ashes.

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