At the risk of pulling that dreaded race card, I must start by plainly stating that living as a person of color in the United States requires more resiliency than average. I face challenges as a thirtysomething black woman and mom that thirtysomething white women do not and will not ever experience. This is not a plea for pity; it is simply a fact.
Regardless of my education level (masters), my shaky seat among the elusive middle class of our country, and my steady career in education, my place in society will always be shaped by the color of my skin. People will treat me a certain way because of it, and I will always perceive situations differently because of my personal lens. Assuming you’re still with me, I now state plainly that getting white folks to understand just exactly why my lenses are different is a next to impossible task, and one I’ve been steadily giving up on. It’s not their fault; how can I expect someone to fully understand the impact of racial discrimination when they’ve never had to face it before?
Today’s generation of white people aren’t directly responsible for the Triangle Trade, slavery, Jim Crow, or any of the like. I have no leg to stand on, walking around angry at every white face I see because of history. White people aren’t free from responsibility when racial insensitivity or injustice occurs, though. (This is that near impossible part I mentioned.)
White folks, I don’t expect you to see the world the same way as I or any other person of color does, but I do ask that you not minimize the fact that we have our own perspective (as well as hearts and souls). I know our culture has become hypersensitive, but the next time a social media wave of outrage swells up to harp on a black guy for being upset that another person who looks like him has been shot, killed, and then presumed to be a doped up felon undeserving of due process or detailed evidence, perhaps you could make the choice to at least not jump on that train. Remain silent and ask yourself through empathy if maybe there is more to be said here about the other side. Recognize that Fox News and CNN aren’t doing their best to deliver “the facts,” and base your opinions on the non-sensational instead.
On that same note, if your rebuttal to racially insensitive jokes or comments is that people of color degrade themselves all the time with their behaviors, violence within their communities, or by simply not trying hard enough to be better, I must stop you there. Folks are indeed in the driver’s seat of their own actions. Yet, when Michael Vick was busted for his dog fighting operation, I heard no argument that “Hey, dogs are beasts! They lick their behinds and eat their own vomit!” Nope. As a nation, we collectively chastised Vick and poured our sympathy out to the dogs.
Similarly, the consensus on rape seems to be that it’s not okay to justify the violation of a woman (or a man) by using their clothing or suggestive behaviors as reason for why anyone should be able to force themselves onto them and sexually abuse them. Similarly, if your excuse for laughing at a joke about black women’s climbing dropout rate is, “well that community breeds this kind of stuff,” you need to have a moment of honesty. Recognize that you’re conveniently passing the buck so as to not have to take responsibility for your own simple mindedness. Again…there’s responsibility in that, and most of us don’t want more responsibility.
As for me, I didn’t set out to be the world’s teacher of all things race or black, and so to circumvent the need to confront others about their covert racism, I simply choose to keep fewer friends. Of all races.
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