“One of the Good Ones”
The last few weeks have been even more emotionally exhausting than usual. First, there was the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging and then last week we saw the video of George Floyd killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. It’s all just too much and I just had too many feeling not to say something. I logged off all social media on Sunday just to get my bearings and take a break from all of the upsetting videos, images, etc.
As many of you know there were riots here in Seattle and across many cities in the U.S. While I think we can all agree that violence is not anyone’s first choice, I don’t disagree it was the only choice left. Nothing is getting better, in fact it’s getting worse. As black people, we are being gunned down for everything from jogging (Arbery), to walking home at night (Martin), to BEING IN OUR OWN HOMES (Jean, Jefferson, Taylor). It seems that just being black and alive is somehow offensive to people. I also have feelings of guilt and sadness that I am not at these protests. Being immunocompromised, I just can’t be around so many people. I feel guilty about that. I feel sorrow because so many of the people at these protests are the same people that are getting ignored in this pandemic. People of color are more likely to die from coronavirus for a variety of reasons, but all of them boil down to systemic racism. These people are in the streets fighting for someone to notice, knowing full well that some of them might not make it out alive….but then some of us won’t anyway for just being.
There are so many white people out there that are ignorant or blind to what is going on. I think a lot of white people still think that racism isn’t “that bad”. We had a black president after all, right? Yes, it is that bad, and it’s getting worse by the day since nothing is done. I also know a lot of those same people who have problems with black people might look at me as one of the “good ones”. I’m college-educated, a homeowner, a mother, “well-spoken”, etc. It sickens me to write all that because the fact is, a group should not be judged this way. I also wanted to point out that even as one of the “good ones” in the eyes of so many white Americans, I experience racism in big and small ways all the time. A lot of these I could call “microaggressions” but I thought it was time to share:
- Random strangers feeling free to touch my hair. I am sure that every black person out there has this same complaint. I guess we aren’t seen as human or are “exotic” so people think it’s ok to just invade our personal space?
- “Wow, you look a lot different than your voice” when people meet me in person…..AKA “You don’t sound black”.
- People clutching their purse when I sit next to them
- A senior manager I was under rather than saying “heads will roll” or that upper management would be upset if our group didn’t have our data together, said there’d be a “lynching”. I’m really not sure how someone can be so blind to not realize the negative connotation that word has in this country.
- The countless times I’ve been followed around in stores without the clerk engaging. My husband has witnessed this several times when he happens to be across the store.
- Being forced to make other people comfortable even though I’ve done nothing wrong. This means:
- Before going into the store, making sure I don’t have anything in my pockets and that my purse is closed/zipped up so no one thinks I’m stealing
- If I get pulled over, rushing to get may identification and registration out, so that they can be in plain sight and my hands on the steering wheel by the time the officer gets to me car. Of course, we all know this is all bullshit now, but it’s always been something I’ve practiced even though no one told me to.
- Never having the luxury to totally ignore what’s going on in politics and the world, because it’s likely it is somehow affecting my rights or those of my loved ones.
- As a parent, I will need to have a discussion with my child about race- ours will obviously be different with Angel since we have a white-presenting child, so it will be more about race in general and how to prepare her for things people may say about me since I am black (how do you prepare your child for that???) Other parents with black kids are talking to their children at an early age (because black kids are unfairly viewed as adults WAY earlier than white kids) about how to safely move through white spaces.
- My dad is a 6’3” black man and has always been a friendly guy. It saddens me to realize that this personality was probably cultivated over time to seem less threatening to white people…in other words, to survive.
- Even though I am now her permanent guardian, making sure I always have documentation when out with my daughter for fear of being challenged.
- Friends or acquaintances only talk to me about black celebrities and culture.
- Having to decide if I should be the “black voice” in the room when people show their racial ignorance. I have to constantly evaluate what my threshold is for this kind of thing or I may damage those relationships.
I’m sure there are others that I’ve forgotten but every black person has a list of at least things like this and many much worse. If you are not a person of color I encourage you to read this list and put yourself in my shoes or those of the black people you know. It’s exhausting. I am reminded of just how much when I am in a safe space with other people of color and I can feel myself relax and breathe easy just for a little bit. In those spaces, I know I am not being judged. I can be myself. I am not in danger.
To those of you that read this list and your first inclination was to get defensive, explain them away, think “well but what about”, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. The oppressed should not be forced to make the oppressors feel comfortable and so often that’s what we’re forced to do in this county and we are still getting killed. So I’m sorry if this list makes you uncomfortable but most black people are constantly living in fear which is almost unbearable.
I would encourage white people out there that want to be allies to really step up. It’s time to call out friends, relatives and co-workers on racist behavior and comments. As people of color it is clear that we can’t do it alone. We need white allies to say “this is not normal”. As my husband put it, we need to “make racism shameful again”. This is not going to happen without you.
I know we all feel a little powerless especially while we’re in a pandemic so I understand if you can’t go out and show your support in a protest. Here are other things you can do to help, though:
- Hold accountable all those around you that are spouting racism, hate, and ignorance
Vote, vote, vote! I cannot stress this enough! We have a very important presidential election coming up and who we end up with in office next is going to play a huge role in how we deal with racism in this country.
- Stop expecting the people of color in your life to educate you all the time and DO THE WORK! Sometimes this means just listening especially if you are in a space for people of color. (here’s something to get you started)
- Before calling the cops on a person of color, ask yourself “would I still be calling if this person was white?”. If the answer is no, put the phone down because you are putting someone’s life in danger.
- Donate or support organizations helping the cause. Here are few, but I’m sure you can find many more out there that need help:
- Black Lives Matter
- Black Visions Collective
- National Bail Bail Out
- Campaign Zero
- Find local organizations and business owned by people of color in your area. Here are just a few in Seattle:
Remember that a rising tide lifts all boats so if we can end racism we all benefit, don’t we?