I’m sure you’ve heard the most recent news out of Ferguson, MO. If you haven’t, I’ll try to not judge you… but you should probably stop reading this and go check out literally any news, on any site or any channel.
That said, this is not a post about Ferguson. It’s not a post about ongoing Black oppression in White America. It’s not a post about how racism isn’t dead. I don’t write about that stuff. I don’t even talk about it, really.
Why would I, when the word “race” basically guarantees the polarization of any given topic? When, as a multi-racial female, it’s possibly the most damning in my arsenal of four-letter words? When, the moment I decide to breach that blatant divide, I’m in a position of defending my own experiences, to both friend and foe alike?
It’s the last part that gets to me more than anything.
I don’t care so much about how those who hear me will react… although, it’s not lost on me that once the R-word has escaped my lips, every word thereafter must be carefully and sensitively selected if I care about them actually listening.
No, people will react however they’ll react, and I’m not in the business of trying to take responsibility for anyone else’s actions or beliefs. But it seems that is what’s expected of me if I attempt to have even a casual discussion about race in this country (like that’s actually a possibility). Plus, the idea that I should have to validate my experiences – not my opinions, mind you – by providing examples of discrimination I’ve faced, has always left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Who cares that I’m a skin-tone chameleon, and that wherever I go, people like to make it a game of trying to figure out my ethnicity? What does it matter that I’m inevitably judged by those who are both lighter and darker than me? How does my story of what it was like growing up the black daughter of a single, White, Jewish mother in ritzy Bellevue, WA affect your world view? Since when do the details of racially-charged comments I’ve endured throughout my entire life, even from well-meaning family members and friends, inspire any genuine epiphany in an era of daily brazen and perilous hate crimes?
I’ve faced discrimination. Just as nearly EVERY person of color in this country has – and likely will – at some point.
Sure, I’ll probably never find myself in a position of worrying whether a police officer might think I’m a threat. On the flip side, I’ve learned the hard way to always be aware of my surroundings. I’ve made the painful discovery that a well-dressed White man in a swanky bar can pose a much more sinister threat than a young person of color walking down the street at night. But that’s leaning toward another conversation entirely… or is it?
The point is, this: Black, brown, tan, red or yellow, our confrontations with racial aversion are as nuanced as our skin tones. And until the (rapidly shrinking) White population cares to genuinely stand up and acknowledge that our histories and our futures are inescapably intertwined, that by hurting us you’re hurting yourselves, our individual stories of “shame” mean next to nothing. Collectively, they mean everything.
So forget about the details. Stop making us illustrate just how you’re discriminating against us. Don’t be so fascinated by our stories of overcoming the odds.
Be brave enough to help change the odds.
(OK, I guess I lied. I talk about race after all, and I live it too.)