I am white. My husband is white and my kids are all white. Until four years ago that had no effect on our lives. And then we moved from the United States to Peru and became minorities.
I expected to learn a lot from our move to Peru. I expected to learn about poverty and injustice. To learn Spanish and about the Peruvian culture. To learn to be more patient and forgiving. What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn from being part of the minority group.
There isn’t a day that I don’t think about the color of my skin and my children’s skin. It keeps me from leaving my house sometimes because I just can’t handlethe stares and comments. It causes my 5 year old daughter to cry after being called “gringa” (white girl) too many times to count. It makes my 13 year old hate riding the bus. It makes us the target of violence. While all of the neighborhood kids play freely outside, I constantly worry about my kids while they are outside of my home. My children’s safety is affected by the color of their skin. When my 10 year old asks to ride his bike to the mercado with his friends, fear is my first response.
And this fear doesn’t even have a history of slavery and ownership, lynchings and the KKK, oppression and injustice behind it. Or being an illegal immigrant, always living in fear of deportation. Or being labeled as dangerous and a possible threat to our government.
These are all things that non-white people in the United States have to deal with and I never did because of the color of my skin. Everywhere I went people assumed I was to be trusted and treated me as such. And I never would have realized what a privilege that is unless we had moved to Peru.
Ultimately it is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned as an ex-patriot. I have had a small taste of an experience that will stay with me forever. That has changed the way I think about race relations in the United States.
So, I am thankful for our experience as a minority. I have learned that white privilege is real. I have gained empathy for those whose skin color affects their daily life. I have learned to listen. My experience of the United States isn’t everyone’s experience, just as my experience of Peru isn’t everyone’s experience. And, perhaps most importantly to me, my kids have learned all of this as well. I hope this is a life lesson they will never forget. I pray that their experience as a minority translates into them being more compassionate and caring adults. That when they see racial injustice they will be moved to do something about it.
And I hope that we always remember to listen to and value the experience of the minority, wherever we live.
Do you live in a country where you are the minority? What has your experience been?