Taking Responsibility for my Actions & Acknowledging my White Privilege [A Letter]

I am making this video because this topic has been brought up again & I realize that I owe a formal apology for my actions. I should have done this years ago.

I am a white trans person who had locks for a couple years when I was a teenager. I was 18 and 19 years old. As a teenager, I was completely unaware of the oppression of black people and did not understand that black folks are discriminated against in the workplace and by society because of their skin color, and that discrimination and oppression was heightened for simply having dreadlocks. As someone that does not and cannot experience discrimination because of the color of my skin, this was hard for me to imagine. 

I was unemployed at this time and attending college so I do not have any experience of being hired or fired while I had this hairstyle. I am guessing that I would not be fired because of my white skin. However, many black people are forced to cut off their dreadlocks whether it is in their school or workplace for no good reason at all. That’s racism. 

I chose not to brush my hair for several years, my hair took about a year to lock up. I was living in SF at the time and I was rarely sober. Information sadly went in one ear and out the other due to my drug addiction. I didn’t have any self respect for myself so you could image my lack of listening to others viewpoints… 

Being sick in an addiction is not an excuse for my behaviors and I know that I need to acknowledge them and I am responsible for the harm that my behaviors had and the negative impact that they had on others. 

Often on the street, I was asked for drugs and rolling papers, so I now understand the assumption and stereotype of dreadlocks being related to drug usage. I didn’t really understand that before I got sober but as I have a clear mind to process things now, I can understand a lot better. As soon as I cut my hair off I was no longer asked this question by complete strangers. 

This made me understand how people are judged for this hairstyle based on stereotypes.  Society links this hairstyle to wrongdoings. 

Black folks experience violence at a much higher rate than white folks. Having dreadlocks heightens that rate because of the stereotypes. 

Any judgments that I received for my hair style is no where equivalent to the discrimination that black folks experience. That is white privilege. Even as a trans person, I am no where near as oppressed. 

Let me put this into perspective. A couple years ago I was pulled over by police while walking a dog. I was questioned about my gender and the police held me there as they had my ID for 10 minutes. I was definitely scared but I was released without any sort of issue. If I were black this could have been a very different story. It would have been more likely to have violence and tragedy. If I were black I might’ve been killed. But because of white privilege and my skin being white, I got away with no problems besides my hands shaking. 

When I turned 20 years old, 6.5 years ago, I cut the locks off shortly after getting sober and coming out of the fog of drug and alcohol addiction. I had a lot to catch up on but I did a lot of research and started to really dive into listening to black voices so I could become a better ally and friend. 

I want to acknowledge that I have a lot more that I have to learn about this but I vow to never let my hair lockup again out of respect for the black community. 

I acknowledged my white privilege and lack of empathy for having this hair style on a blogging site that has since been taken down. But realize since these posts are no longer easily accessible that I needed to make a more formal post to acknowledge this and to apologize for the hurt and harm that this has caused others and especially apologize to the black community. 

I’m truly sorry for my actions and will continue to do all that I can to keep educating myself to become a better ally and to not make these mistakes again. I also realize that using my platform to bring attention to this could also help others to not make this mistake and to become more aware of white privilege and the oppression of black people. I have a platform so I need to use it to do good. Acknowledging my mistakes that I am responsible for will not erase what I have done but will hopefully ease some of the pain that my actions have caused others. 

I acknowledge my white privilege. I acknowledge that I have privilege just because of the color of my skin. Black people do not have this privilege. 

I acknowledge the privilege of having a platform and with that comes a great responsibility.  I will use my platform to lift others. I will continue to educate myself to become a better white ally and I encourage all of you to do the same. Listen to black stories. Listen and lift black voices. Amplify black art and music. Amplify black voices. I will continue to do so as well and I promise to continue to educate myself. There is always more to learn. There is a lot of work to do.  Thank you for reading. 

BLACK LIVES MATTER. 

Written by Ryan Cassata

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