I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, trying to find the right words. Every time I sit down to type it out, I just get more and more sad.
I’m talking about racism.
Today I read an article in New York Magazine, a column, written by Questlove, from the Roots. It was very well written and I nodded my head and really, really felt for him.
Then I read the comments and realized how some people completely missed the point.
The point was, he has been conditioned his whole life to make himself small and unnoticeable, because he’s a very large black man and he’s come to the realization that no matter what kind of person he is, the fact that he’s black translates to: I ain’t worth shit.
Yes. I am a white girl living in suburbia. I have no idea whatsoever what it must be like to be a person of color living in the US.
A part of me is thankful for the fact that I’m a white girl living in suburbia. And that part of me is sad that I have to be thankful for something so simple as skin color.
Listen. I was raised to treat everyone as they deserve to be treated, not by skin color, gender, or sexual orientation. My mom never sat me down and said, “Now, be nice,” she simply raised us with the unspoken understanding that it pays to be kind, no matter who the person. That skin color is just skin color and nothing more.
The main thing I’ve gathered so far is that what people know about the black community is pretty much limited to bad neighborhoods, TV and things like the Trayvon Martin case. And when cases like Trayvon comes to light, everyone is immediately on a side. One or the other and the line is drawn in the sand on racism.
Look, I’m not here to discuss my thoughts and feelings on the verdict. My feelings on it are not cut and dry.
I’m here to discuss racism and why it makes me so sad.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never grown up or because I have impressionable kids around me all the time, but I still feel like the person I was when I was 5; if you are nice, we can play. And it makes me incredibly sad that in 2013 we are still discussing basic human rights.
Growing up I didn’t really notice the different skin colors around me. Maybe because I was fortunate enough, before moving to Clarion, to be around people of all colors. My best friends in elementary school were Korean, bi-racial and Zambian. And as I look at that last sentence, I think, why should that matter?
I don’t get it.
I don’t understand why the color of our skin immediately says things about us that may or may not be true.
It makes me so sad that sometimes people of color have to apologize for being people of color.
When I found my one and only roommate online back in 2003, we hit it off right away, emailing back and forth. We agreed that we would be perfect roommates and set a date for us to meet and go apartment hunting.
But before she agreed 100% to be my roommate, she asked, “One last thing, is it OK that I’m black?”
I wrote back, “Is it OK that I’m white?”
And that was that.
I say this all the time, but I try not to judge someone unless I’ve had a day in their shoes. Can you even imagine what it must be like to constantly try to make yourself invisible? To walk into a store and have someone follow you at a distance because you’re obviously a shoplifter? To go into a restaurant with your white friend and watch the waiter talk to your friend and not you at all? As if even making eye contact would make you black by association? That knowing that unless you dress like Carlton all the time, you will be viewed as a hoodlum and are obviously only in existence to beat people and do drugs and leach off of the government?
I’ve seen a lot of that first hand. The guy I dated prior to Matt was very much a black man. Tall, strong, quiet. He’d always tell me that I’d never understand what it was like to be a black person. That I will never know what it feels like to constantly have to look over my shoulder. To always be in the wrong. To never amount to anything, because that’s exactly what’s expected. To just survive and not be in the way.
Racism makes me so incredibly sad, because for so many people, color matters to them.
The guy I dated was a beautiful man and thought deeply about everything. Was an amazing writer and brought up so many interesting points in conversations. Truth be told, he was probably one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever known. He always wanted to be better than what he was handed, but just couldn’t figure out how to come above it all when all he’s ever known is the world beating him down, just for being black.
We all make choices in life. Good, bad or otherwise. We don’t choose skin color.
When we teach people that the only way to live is to fit into a little box based on skin color, or gender, or sexual orientation, who are we really? Who could we become instead?
“I mean, that is a crazy way to live. Seriously, imagine a life in which you think of other people’s safety and comfort first, before your own. You’re programmed and taught that from the gate. It’s like the opposite of entitlement.”
-Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson