I had someone ask me today what racism is like if you're the one it's directed at. That's an interesting question and one I was glad to get. It's not often that someone will look you in the face and ask you how their privilege harms you, especially not on an emotional level. So props to you Caucasian friend.
Now to the answer...
It feels like that. It feels like walking across hot coals every day, all day long and sometimes you step down wrong or one of the coals is just hotter than the others, or someone throws one at your head. That hurts over and above the normal everyday pain. But it's not just that.
The pain? That's something that you just get used to, like the ache of the shoulder that you wrenched when you were in high school. It still hurts but you don't notice unless something happens to irritate it. Sometimes though, sometimes you look up from your journey and you see that your road isn't the only one. There are other roads and one of them is smooth and clear and covered in soft cool grass. The people on that road are moving so fast and so easily and no matter what you do you cannot catch them. You try and you try and the people on that road just keep passing you. And then you look back at your own path and it hurts even worse.
That's what it's like to be non-Caucasian in America. As someone of mixed race, the pain is even more insidious because we see the other road. People we know, people who share our last name and at least half of our DNA walk that road, but we aren't allowed on it.
There's a point, when you're a child before you realize that your path is different, when you believe the "all you have to do is try hard and you'll succeed," story that is a part of our national mythology, when you are innocent and not jaded and wary. Then one day, someone pushes you onto the path you have to walk for the rest of your life and there's no way to detour.
Even if you are successful, people might allow you to live their lifestyle but you're still walking the same old sulfurous path.
Don't believe me?
See what happens when you stumble.