A legacy burden is a belief or an emotion bequeathed to us by our family, ethnicity, or culture. The U.S. is rife with legacy burdens: racism, sexism, materialism, homophobia, individualism. White Supremacy is a legacy burden. It is a (fallacious) belief system that Black people are inherently inferior to White people, and has been used for 400 years to justify slavery, injustice, and murder. The legacy of White Supremacy burdens White people as well as Black people, albeit very differently.

As a White person, I may not have ever thought to tag racism as a burden. I benefit from many forms of privilege that my whiteness provides. I generally don’t have to even think about race. I’ve been taught that there are other races, but that whiteness just is. As the dominant race, White people see whiteness as normative.

Part of the legacy of individualism leads me to believe that the suffering of other members of the human race has little or no effect on me. It might engender my pity, or even my disgust. I assure myself of what a White code of individualism has imparted to me – that all my achievements, comforts, and successes are by dint of my own efforts. I don’t realize that I’m getting more than my share, and that means others are getting less of theirs.

And I ignore or deny the reality of the connectedness among all human beings. That the suffering of others affects my well-being, even if I don’t realize it, or even if I’m not aware of those others. (This includes the entirety of the natural world.)

Perhaps the good news is that once I recognize racism as a burdensome legacy, I can begin to change. To first change my attitudes and beliefs, and then to change my actions. I can become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

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