Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I said in my last post that I would explain why/how I went from writing a post about how I understand that it's hard to speak out about -isms to actually speaking out about one.
One thing that I know about myself is that annoyed is a feeling I feel fairly regularly. We could try to analyze the reasons behind this fact, but for now let's just say that lots of different things annoy me.
One thing that really annoys me is when white people tell me stories about how they have recently witnessed something racist happen. Okay, just telling me the story isn't annoying. Telling the story in a "Can you believe that ignoramous said that ?!?" way followed up with the revelation that the white person telling me the story just sat there and didn't say anything. Said white person might classify their reaction as stunned silence.
I want to turn to this person and say, " White person, I can believe that you heard so-and-so say that. You know why?
Because so-and-so has probably gone through his/her whole life saying these racist/racish things, and has had these comments met with laughter or silence. So and so doesn't even know you well enough to know you'd be offended; so obviously this kind of stuff comes out of so-and-so's mouth pretty easily. And everytime so-and-so says one of these comments and isn't called out on it, so-and-so gets the message reinforced that saying those things is ok. "
When I hear a white person tell a story like this, there are two things that bum me out. The first one is hearing the story. It's always sad to be reminded of the fact that racism still exists. The second one is knowing that there was a person who knew that something wrong was happening, but didn't speak up. A person who (since they are not black,) can't have their comments immediately dismissed as being oversensitive/having a chip on his/her shoulder/etc.
So, knowing how much stories like this irritate me when they involve people of color, I knew I couldn't in good conscience come to my blog and write about how I had the opportunity to talk to someone about homophobic remarks and didn't take it.
Now, I am not saying that you must speak out each and every time you hear someone say something disrespectful/hateful/ignorant about a member of some marginalized group. I don't choose to take the time/energy to do that and I can see why you wouldn't either. But hey if you want to...knock yourself out.
But what I don't want is for you to come and talk to me about it, oblivious to the very important role you played in the exchange. If you want to talk to me about it like, "I heard this, and I know I should have said something--but I didn't. What can I do differently next time something like this happens?" I can work with that. Or if you want to just keep your story to yourself as you struggle internally with why you didn't do something--I can work with that too.
Maybe now you're thinking, "myblackfriend, you're not being very compassionate/understanding right now. You weren't this mean to Ken --Why are you being so hard on me? I'm one of the good ones!?!!
I just want to interject and say that I am cracking myself up over here.
It's true...if you are a white person and taking the time to read this blog, you probably have a level of race awareness that most white people in the United States do not have. But I think that it is important to realize that you probably have just enough information to be dangerous--remember John Mayer? It is precisely because you are more up on things than the average white person that I am being less forgiving.
It's like gymnastics: When you are a little two or three-year-old and you take a gymnastics class, everyone cheers and applauds for every little move that you do.
Somersault? Whoo hoo!!
Barely marginal cartwheel? Here's your trophy!
That's kind of what Ken is like. Ken is still learning the "don't post slurs on the internet" lesson of awareness. So any movement past that is to be celebrated.
But you...you're advanced. You're like "Hey I like gymnastics, and I think I'm pretty good at it--I'm going to keep taking lessons." So you hire me, your mean old Romanian coach. And it seems like all I do is criticize you. You even break your ankle twice and have to miss your Prom!
You start to wonder, "Is this really worth it?" But when you start boo-hooing to me about it I say, "You don't like it? Get out of my gym!"
That's just my way of figuring out how badly you want it. I don't really want you to go, because I know you've got potential. But if you don't want to work-- Hey, I'm not going to beg you to stay.
That's pretty much what it's like with this blog. This is my space to say what I think/feel. If it is too much for you, then don't read it. If I start censoring myself here...only bad things will happen. Work around these issues is hard; and it is probably going to be hard for as long as you and I are alive. It is only the people who are willing to do the hard work, to ask themselves the tough questions, and to make the tough decisions that are going be the ones moving us towards positive change. Everyone else will just be sitting on the sidelines.
Comments? Leave them below.