I love it. I have no problem talking about it. I bring it up, you run away.
Why do you run away? Are you afraid that you are going to be accused of being…racist?
So many times in my workplace and overall interactions, when I bring race into a conversation, or, I step into an all huwhyte environment (get it, that is me bringing race into a conversation), you get all jittery and nervous.
Do I make you nervous?
Do I make you feel bad about yourself?
Do I make you scared?
Do I make you weak?
How about Angry?
Let’s explore what happens when race or racism is introduced into a conversation.
- Yes, I make you nervous! Why? Because you immediately feel attacked. You feel like somehow, someway, you have been racist towards me. So you try to find the words to EXPLAIN (boos we have word for that) why somehow YOU are not racist. Once again, the conversation shifts from the introduction of race to how you feel about the subject. Because, somehow your opinion about race matters. LOL.
- Yes. I make you feel bad about yourself. I don’t personally make you feel bad about yourself, but I make you wonder what you could be doing to combat the huge racial divide…and usually your answer involves you being the savior to a bunch of poor black kids in Haiti. So you feel bad about yourself and you don’t exactly know why, but I do, my boos do. We know. Once again, the conversation that is introducing race is becoming about how bad you feel that you don’t “get it”. Here’s a clue, you will never get it. Unless you are a person of color and have lived through systemic racism, you will not get it. But don’t act so dumb about it. Ignorance is not in your favor when you act dumb and try to play the victim.
- Yes. I scare you. There are times you never want to talk to me again. I’m intimidating, because I can empathize with people and their experiences in a way that you cannot. I scare you because not only am I tall, black and beautiful, I’m also…(wait for it) educated, something you didn’t expect from me. I know your lingo, I speak your language, I understand how you do things. I have just reached a level that matches you and even, yep…let me say it, surpasses you. I’m loud and proud and understand where I stand in this mix of adoption, race and their crazy complexities. I scare you because I know myself. I can have conversations that make me uncomfortable and come out still uncomfortable but with more understanding. Many of you remain uncomfortable and because of your fear, you fail to learn. I scare you because I am not afraid to engage in a conversation about race with the hope of meeting some woke brothers and sisters. I scare you because I am powerful. I have been empowered by my suffering.
- Yes. I make you weak. I make you so weak that you spit back “but i’m not racist” or you say, “I don’t see color” or…this one is my favorite. “We are all God’s children and Jesus loves the little children” and then you proceed to name colors that don’t exist in the human form. I make you weak because your responses to how are you using your privilege to empower those who do not have the privilege is SUPER WEAK. For the people group with the most systemic power backing them, you are sure as heck a group of weaklings. I’m amazed sometimes at how fast you run when race is brought into the fold of a conversation. Yes, I make you weak because you realize that our past, and our strength, and our victory is what makes us strong. What do you have?
- Yes. I infuriate you. I make you angry because in your mind I don’t understand YOU. I don’t listen to what YOU have gone through. “What privilege? I grew up poor, we ate food out of cans. I don’t have privilege.” This is among the most common response I get when I encourage people to look at their privilege. There are so many kinds of privilege but since this conversation is about race, you know what I’m talking about. Any people group who did not have slaves who were ancestors who rose above it all, you have the privilege I am talking about. But I make you angry because i’m not seeing your side of things. You are right. I’m not seeing your side of things when race is brought up because as I said before, it is not about you. I don’t need to see your side and understand how much you went through. I don’t need to see your tears or listen to you explain the same story every other person in the same people group tell. I’m not diminishing the impact not having food on the table can have on a person, i’m not failing to acknowledge that abuse in the home is a problem. I see this, and I understand this, because guess what, my people group have suffered in similar ways. Add race to the picture and we are expected to always be poor, uneducated, ugly, sick, druggies, disenfranchised, loud, rowdy, disrespectful, giving up our kids to the system. But you, society shines a glimmer of hope on you. Society says, “you got this!” and there are always ways for you to better yourself. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” saying was never meant for the minority group. Uncle Sam always wanted our money that we didn’t have and then some. So I really understand the suffering but…the universe seems to be tilted to your improvement, your betterment, and your success. Not ours. That’s racism.
I don’t believe racism is individual. But this is why you get bent out of shape when race becomes a part of the conversation. You fail to see the big picture. Every. Single. Time. You fail to see that racism is not about being mean to someone, saying something evil, or having a “black” heart like my adoptive mother would say.
Racism is deeper than that. Racism is systemic. A quick google search of examples of how racism is systemic will show you that it goes from what clothing you are wearing all the way to why people of color die in childbirth more often than non people of color.
Racism lives in the food industry, school districts, college acceptance, jobs. Racism even determines whether someone will have hot water or not for a shower. Racism is on the runways, in the cars we drive, in whether we own a car, in how we speak, in our body language, in who gets served first at a restaurant.
Racism is not about individuals behaving a certain way, though it definitely leads to some really horrible things. Individuals can feel hate, prejudice, and discriminate against another but none of that actually equals racism.
Racism is about expectations, assumptions, and prejudices. One people group that has certain expectations, assumptions, and prejudices towards another people group who is also backed by the system (how the country functions) will embody racism. If you have enough power and prejudice, you then are participating in a racist system. People of color will never be able to participate in true racism because we do not have the systemic power to back us up.
Think about banking and loans. Think about what happens when a person of color goes to get gas and puts their card in wrong….usually they are flagged, it happens a lot, almost all the time.
Racism is really about what one people group expects from another people group based on what the MAJORITY think, believe, and trust.
It’s not middle school fights, or elementary school squables. It’s not even graduate level arguments. Racism really has to do with how one aligns themselves and what that alignment can yield. Most non people of color believe they have experienced racism. This is because they don’t understand that even if someone dislikes them, the pendulum still swings in their favor no matter what.
I’m constantly interrupted when I talk about race and I hear “not everything is about race.” When I hear “not everything is about race,” I feel like I’m hearing, you don’t need your heart to live. Your heart is part of you and it gives you life, circulates your blood, creates oxygen, regulates weight, determines proper health. Your heart is all of you. How can one say you can live without your heart?
If you are a person of color, your color is part of who you are. It makes you beautiful. It makes you glorious, it makes you a source of envy, it makes you unique, and special and a true gift from the creator. Your color sets you apart because your color is yours. There is no one exactly like you. So, it’s all part of you. You can seldom go to a party, an event, a meeting, or just a place to hang out, without bringing your color with you. So it matters. Everything includes race.
Just about every conversation one has includes race. Because every conversation we have should be about empowerment and the people group who are least empowered are people of color.
So let’s say we are having a board meeting and we are talking about how we can improve the schools in Chicago. Pretty sure race is a factor.
How about we are at a house warming party and people bring gifts. Yep…race plays a role there.
How about we go to the clubs and we are not feeling the music. Yeppers…race plays a role there.
What about when we are dating a person of color? Or married to a person of color and our offspring look nothing like us and we are asked if we are the nanny? Yep! Race.
Don’t even get me started with microaggressions.
There are so many instances where race plays a role and is pushing to be invited into the flow. I don’t wait for the invite from you. Let’s get this party started, and let’s talk about race because it really is a game that is rigged in your favor.