There's a lot of self-care going on for me right now. Instead of reading online information about Mike Brown and Ferguson, I'm looking to get involved in protests. Instead of sharing content of other writers, I'm sharing some of my own and putting them in one spot.
Some things I've written about race:
It is a terrible thing, this being able to pass. There is the strange position I've found myself in that shocks me, it always shocks me with a jolt, when someone starts speaking this code that they are sure you understand. They lean in, pull you into their circle of trust, and then betray it. They assume you agree with them. You must! You look white! So you probably totally understand their racism!
This isn't one of the 13 essays, but a project that allows people to use 6 words to sum up race and has a short explanation. For me, my six words were: I decide if I'm Black enough.
When I was born the white nurse told my mom that “mixed” wasn’t a category and she put “white” on my birth certificate, but my mother knew she’d be raising a child that the world would identify as black and she raised me as such.
Something happened just recently that wasn't an AHA! moment, nor was it out of the ordinary. In fact, this has occurred repeatedly in my life so it's not much of a surprise. While talking on the phone to a parent for my job she paused after a few minutes of talking and asked if she could ask me a question without offending me. I actually like it when people do that because I'm prepared to respond appropriately. When it's abrupt, I end up stammering, shaking my head, and then finding a way to get back on track.
"Sure," I said. "What do you want to know?"
"I was wondering, are you black?"
I laughed. It occurred to me that, while on the phone with a black parent, I must have code-switched and given myself away. Quickly, I searched my brain for whatever phrase I said or word I used or tone my voice took.
"Yes," I told her. "I know how to code-switch."
Here's how I know you're right about that: I got several hundred, yes hundred, responses to this privately. Maybe they were giving me a familiar Attagirl! because I know them personally or maybe they were afraid to put their name onto something in the comments. Either way, I am happier with my authentic self of speaking up and couldn't forgive myself if I just let things slide.
Back when I was very young and didn't ever consider what my family racial makeup was or why it would matter, I considered myself to be very open and adopted a Pollyanna approach to people. It still confuses me to this day, then, when people assume I'm a white girl with a good tan. It confuses me more, however, when people immediately identify me as black and get scared of the stereotypical "angry black woman". Allow me to illustrate. A white girlfriend and I were at a cafeteria style restaurant once where you place your order, they call your name, and you pick it up. Both of our orders were messed up and neither of us realized this until we got back to our table. She went back to the counter first and marched up there indignantly (we only had an hour for lunch) and got it taken care of. I watched as the manager, a white woman, smiled at her and apologized for getting her food order wrong. When it was my turn, I did the same thing. I approached her the same way and when I got to the counter she took a step back and cowered.
"Um, excuse me. Why are you acting scared of me?"
"I thought you were going to throw your food at me or hit me." she replied.
It's got a Jay Smooth video embedded in it. Just go push play.
After reading that and replacing "plantation-style" wedding with "prison-style" wedding, I can only hope that what we're learning from this is that her idealized glamorization of holding human beings hostage and making that a part of the sacred wedding ceremony is a debacle of history-sized breadths. A fiasco, if you will, for those who support this kind of thinking and accept it ignorantly.
So, when our mayor got up for his remarks, I was still room-searching and thinking about the people I know and wanted to say 'hi' to before the breakfast ended. He commented using the phrase "systemic racism", a phrase originated by Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, though I believe he and other activists used the term "institutional racism" that materializes in educational systems, governmental bodies, and other organizations. Historically speaking, this applies to multiple cultures and races throughout the world, but we're obviously at a breakfast discussing this as it pertains to what Dr. King and many others fought against.
The phrasing of his words struck me: "...systemic racism occasionally rears its ugly head..."
It froze me but not until after sitting up straighter, looking at The Cuban with confusion pointedly situated between my furrowed brows, and cocking my head to the side.
Systemic racism? Occasionally rearing its head? Coming up for air once in a while?
It's simplistic to use symbolic racism and attribute it to a cake just because they are black and white. Mostly because, and I'll say this again, it's a cake. A cake that is eventually eaten and gone. It reminds me of the oft-misquoted "Eat your cake and have it, too"proverb. It's fitting to this discussion because we can pretend to be concerned about racism but not "have" to deal with it since we're talking about a cake. Look, it's not my metaphor, but entertaining that coupled with an ancient aphorism about eating cake is where the car was headed and not by me. I'm fine having this mutual exchange of perception of a cake if that's what we're doing. So let's go ahead and grab a bite of it.
Get your fork.
I wrote this last summer when George Zimmerman got off for killing Trayvon Martin. In March of this year I read this piece at Mom 2.0. This post brings a lot of different comments and, sadly, could be repeatedwith the unbelievable number of Black people who are killed in this country.
Make no mistake: I said hush. I said listen. I wanted you to listen before spouting off right away. Take it in, drink it up, and let it digest. If it were a meal, I would eat first and then do all the talking. You would sit and listen. Nodding, asking questions as necessary. Clarifying when I didn't make sense. Just don’t speak over me. Don’t set the agenda without knowing which players are at the table. Don't play checkers and tell me the game is actually chess.
The following are a couple of pieces I wrote about race for Babble Voices.
Until we see White Privilege as a real and true thing then we’re living in a world full of Tornado Watches. Conditions are favorable, but we all can’t see the twister from where we are. A White Privilege Tornado Watch means “it’s happening somewhere, but I can’t see it, so I’m safe”. The problem with living like that is that there’s a large portion of the population living in Tornado Warnings where it’s happening and NOW and it’s dangerous.
Can we all just agree that this week has been a hazy and draining burst of overload on the race issues surrounding the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin and that we’re in need of kindness right now? Good, because if we can start right there at that particular point, then I think we can get somewhere as parents, citizens, and human beings of the world. More than once I’ve read people saying things like “…not everyone agrees that Martin was racially profiled” but the only people I’ve heard mention that are non-POC and since People of Color aretargeted and profiled, I’m going to engage in a little truth-in-storytelling and believe that. So, if you’re not one of those people right now I’m going to ask that you suspend your disbelief and conclude that maybe Black people talking about this know a thing or two about being followed around and deemed “criminal”.
It’s been a volatile week for women, wouldn’t you say? It’s not as if what we see and hear in the news is a shock, but seeing as the downfall of human worthiness is steadily on the decline, it’s safe to say that we have failed Ms. Jeantel in many ways. Not only is she a young girl (and the arguments rage against the youthfulness of her murdered friend, Trayvon Martin) but she is a girl I see every day at school. Watching the narrative about her derail, however, should be called out loudly.
His presence was enough.
His Whiteness was enough.
Their youth was enough.
Their Blackness was enough.