Scared. Angry. Sad. Exhausted. Hopeful.
The sky is blue. Water is wet. Nazis are bad. All three of those statements are so obviously true, they should go without saying. Apparently, our president disagrees. I normally try to be apolitical in this space, but enough is enough and I can no longer remain silent. I’m sure that you have already heard over and over all that went down in Virginia and the horrible communications that followed, so I won’t go into that here. I will just say:
I am scared.
I am angry.
I am sad.
I am exhausted.
I was worried.
I am hopeful.
I am scared for all of my family members and friends as they go out into the world. I am scared for their safety, for their lives, for their emotional well-being. I am especially scared for those that live in areas with higher concentrations of white supremacists like we saw in Virginia. I am also scared for myself. As a black woman female I am already very aware when I go out and make sure I’m operating “on all cylinders”. However, now I am even more worried about being harassed or worse. I already knew the deck was stacked against me, but I am now reminded no matter what I do I could be in danger.
I am angry that we are still here. If I hear another person say we’re living in a “post racial world” I am going to scream. No, we are not! I am angry that people still have blinders on. A women was run over and killed for standing up for something so basic as us all being treated equally. Black people are being gunned down by the police at a shocking rate. I am so sick of hearing people say “well if you don’t do anything wrong you don’t have anything to worry about”. Seriously?!? A 12-year-old boy was killed. What could he have possibly done. Those arguments come from people who are not willing to acknowledge their privilege (if you don’t know what that means check out this comic). They are so worried about being called racist that they won’t listen to reason. You need to acknowledge your privilege, we all need to acknowledge our privilege. I will certainly acknowledge that my life has been made easier by growing up in a middle class household with two parents and living my whole adult life at a middle class level. I also acknowledge the privilege I have for being college educated. However, I will still be judged by the color of my skin and still live in a country that considers me the “other”. Before I step foot into a store I make sure my hands are not in my pockets, my purse is zipped shut and that I’m paying attention. While I still may get followed around the store, I hope that these small precautions will make it harder for someone to accuse me of stealing.
If you are a white, when was the last time you went into a store that sold band-aids, makeup or hair products and couldn’t find anything you could use? When was the last time you were told at hair salon that they don’t your kind of hair? How often have you been in a work meeting where you’re the only person that looks like you? Do most of the executives at your company look like you? Probably. These are all examples of white privilege. They are not something you asked for, but have just because you look like you do. That privilege doesn’t give you a pass to ignore everything, in fact you are the people that will help change it!
I am sad as I watch my husband, who is forever the optimist, search for answers. How can there be this much hate? How can people not see what’s going on? While Derek was already fairly open-minded and aware when we met, he has become more so since we got married. Maybe a year ago I mentioned how I like to make sure the car registration is easy to get out of the glove compartment quickly. I said that of course if I get pulled over by the police I want that and my license out and ready before the cop walks up so that I can have my hands visible on the wheel. I mentioned that I’ve always done that from the time I started driving. He asked with shock on his face “who taught you to do that?” I told him it’s just something I know I have to do. And now I know that I need to add turning on the video on my phone the next time I get pulled over. He was flabbergasted that these are the things I, his law-abiding and rule-following wife, have to do. It makes me so sad to see his faith in humanity tarnished just a little and to seeing first hand that sometimes being black is the only crime a person commits. I remember the first time he saw me followed around in a store. He was on the other side of the store witnessing it, I didn’t even know it was happening. When he told me about it, I wasn’t shocked but he was. I am sad that some things don’t surprise me anymore. When a cop gets off or only gets a slap on the wrist for a race-based crime, I am no longer surprised.
I am exhausted by the need to constantly educate people. Black people (or anyone in a minority group for that matter) are expected to be the spokesperson and representative of an entire group even though we never asked to be. When I am asked a question about race from a white person (that’s not a friend or relative) I know I have to choose my words carefully because whether they know it or not, they are going to apply my words to every black person they will ever meet. I am exhausted from times at work when I had to think about how each and every action I took or word I said would be perceived. While some people said I was being hard on myself when I made mistakes, I knew I had to be because someone was going to judge future black coworkers based on my behavior. I am exhausted by strangers touching my hair without my consent or asking to touch my hair (how is one supposed to tactfully answer that question!).
I am exhausted by the people that don’t understand what #BlackLivesMatter means and how insulting it is to hear “AllLivesMatter in response. People with that response are telling me that my life isn’t as important since the whole point is that not all lives matter until we agree black lives matter. I like the burning house analogy I’ve heard before: If a house is burning and the fire department comes, when hose down the burning house you wouldn’t say “but ALL houses matter”. Instead, you would understand that this house is getting much needed attention right now because people are at risk of dying. I am exhausted by the white strangers in the bathroom who say “I just love your hair” as if I need their validation/permission to be bold enough” to not straighten my hair. I am exhausted by all (oh my god, seriously so many) of the people who have asked me “Have you ever thought of getting your hair relaxed?” because apparently my kinky hair isn’t pretty enough in its natural state.
I was worried. Before yesterday I was worried that apathy was starting to set in for many folks, that people are feeling emotionally overwhelmed so were giving up.
I was wrong and I am hopeful. We went to the Black Lives Matter march in Seattle last night and it warmed my soul. It was several hundred people and a lot of them were nonblack. It was more comforting than you can imagine to see people of all races gathered to say to me and every black person “we see you and we’re fighting for you”. I was worried that after that recent violence in Virginia people would not come out (can you blame them?), but they came. They came with signs and chants and understanding. It was overwhelming in the most wonderful way.
I know things are tough right now. It’s hard to read the news since it seems like this president is only empowering racists to come out in the light. But we have to stick together. If you are not a person of color and don’t know what to do, just be an ally. If you hear racist comments or jokes form other white people, shut it down. I know it’s uncomfortable but sometimes it needs to come from other white people. I do the same when I hear homophobic comments. The only way we are going to win this fight is with your help. Make sure you are listening to the people of color in your life. While we appreciate your support, sometimes we just need you to listen to the struggles we are facing. A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook and I think it’s awesome. These women are doing the ally thing right. They have created a network to educate other white people. They’ve also created a safe space for people of color and are encouraging us to bring forward racist confrontations we’re having online so that they can come in and help educate these people because sometimes it’s tough to do it ourselves (see exhausted paragraph).
How are you all doing out there?