Who is Robyn Sordelett?
Robyn Sordelett was born and raised in South Africa until she was four. Her family moved to the U.S. in 1991 when her father accepted a job here. She lived in New York and Connecticut before attending the University of Richmond. She settled in Richmond following graduation where she would later met her husband. Together they have three children. She obtained a master's degree in social work and worked in forensic mental health before turning to take care of her family as a full-time mom. She is a leader in Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety and is active in local politics. Robyn and her family live in rural Prince George County.
Excerpt from interview with Robyn Sordelett by Whitney Dow, 2018
Q: Do you feel like your gender or your race has had a bigger impact on your experience [phonetic]?
Sordelett: [14:15:57] Oh, that’s a good one. It’s interesting, because I feel like—that’s interesting. I guess, to be honest, I was born in a country [South Africa] where being white really mattered. My dad wouldn’t have been successful. We wouldn’t have been able to move. We wouldn’t have been able to come to America. I wouldn’t have been able to start my life here, female or male, if I was not white. So, I guess from the start of it, everything was because I was white, which just like, blew my mind to realize that. That’s crazy. On a day-to-day basis, probably being a woman has more of an impact, because I am a mother. Yes.
Sordelett: [14:34:13] Yes. Whereas, I champion the fact that I’m a woman. You know what I mean? Every one of my accomplishments is happily framed by being a woman. That informs me in a way. Like you said, I wouldn’t say, “I’m Robyn. I’m a thirty-one-year-old white woman.” I would just say, “I’m Robyn. I’m a thirty-one-year-old woman.” It just wouldn’t occur to me, even with how much it’s engrained in my life story. It just wouldn’t occur to me.
Q: Are you happy that you’re white?
Sordelett: [14:16:57] Yes, because I don’t have to deal—I think it’s really, really difficult especially to be a woman of color right now. Like I said, there’s an awkwardness with it, but gosh, we take it for granted to be white. That’s like the ultimate privilege, is we don’t even know what it means to be white, because we don’t think about it. We’re not talking to our kids about being white. We’re not walking around every day like, “Oh, God. I’m the only white person here.” That’s a tough thing to say, but yes. I am happy that I’m white. I’m happy that my kids are white. That I don’t have to give my son a list of things not to do when he’s pulled over by a police officer.
Q: Are there drawbacks to being white?
Sordelett: [14:23:23] That’s an interesting question. Are there drawbacks? Not in general. I don’t know. Not in general. There are not institutional barriers for white people. There aren’t things that are harder because you’re white. I think something that’s tough is when you want to engage as an ally and you feel self-conscious about your whiteness, because—
Q: [unclear] motorcycles drowned you out.
Sordelett: [14:24:18] That’s okay. I think that something that’s difficult is when you want to engage, and you are self-conscious about your whiteness, and I feel that a lot. I’m trying to think of a good example. Sometimes I think that there’s nothing worse than a well-intentioned white person who maybe is wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, and donates to all the organizations, but like, still doesn’t get it. I think what you don’t get is that you can never get it. Does that make sense? You need to be able to grasp that you’ll never understand, and you’ll never get it, and it’s messy, and complicated, and you just have to listen more than you talk, maybe. For me, that’s the only drawback. I hate to use the word drawback about it. That’s the only awkward thing about it for me, but as far as just living your life every day? No. There’s no cons to being white.