James Baldwin once wrote, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” I didn’t want to write this column. Unlike Mr. Baldwin, I don’t feel I know enough, understand enough, or offer enough to make it worth reading. I’m writing it anyway. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I love this country too much to sit on the sidelines during our current national reckoning on race.
I’ve written about racists and racial inequities in the past, but I’ve avoided an exploration on racism itself because I never felt I was an expert on race. I was mistaken. I was an expert on race: the advantages of the white race, anyway. I’d grown up knowing my white skin was my passport to preferential treatment, even if I didn’t understand how that treatment would change were I a different color. There were no watchful eyes following me around the store, no curious stares as I entered the country club dining room. There was nowhere I couldn’t live, couldn’t work, couldn’t worship simply because of the color of my skin.