We are not surprised.
By the white supremacist acts of hate, by the president who disrespects women or will not condone the acts of hate, by the continual acts of violence against people of color in our country and in the world.
And by We I mean the oppressed, the marginalized, the people of color. We are not surprised, but we are angry, sad, irritated, and tired.
.When I hear people around me get rilled up about the recent events and injustices that keep coming to light, I feel sadness and anger but I do not share the same intensity of astonishment and outrage.
Don't misunderstand, it is not that I am complacent or that I lack a urgent need to DO something and wake up to my own biases and blindness. But as a women of color I have experienced racism subtly or not so subtly on a daily basis for most of my life.
It's probably not something I would ever say to you, these small moments that happen that go by unsaid and un noticed, except of course by me.
Even now as I write this I worry about offending people, or making you uncomfortable. Sharing that with you shows my ingrained belief that I need to keep my brown ness in check, I need to tone things down so that you feel better about it.
The oppressed have taken the strategy to rise above the stereotypes, the bigotry and the hatred as a means to change the breeding ground of racism. We the oppressed have taken it upon ourselves to spare the discomfort of others to hopefully change the climate of race inequality.
We want change not only in how we are treated in terms of equal opportunity but change in how people on an individual level deal with their own discomfort around race.
When white privilege is mentioned do you feel defensive? Fearful? Shameful? Is your impulse to either ignore it all together or act out in some way?
It is human to want to avoid pain and find pleasure. We will always seek ways to find a way out of pain. But rather than try and bypass this discomfort, what if you sat with it, felt it, really allowed it to be there?
.What if instead of posting that quote, picture, or article from a place of wanting to get out of pain, you took some time to really sit with the feelings you are having around race, gender, and being a person of color or having white privilege? What might that information give you in terms of how to act? Of how to be supportive? Or how you can deconstruct your own racist, homophobic, masogynistic beliefs, because we all have them to some degree.
We may not think we are being racist, we may not identify with the hate that is often delivered with racism, but we must not be blind to the ways we intentionally or unintentionally say, do, or act in racist ways. In my own experience racist acts can be delivered in such seemingly innocent ways, and I believe that most of us experience this more often that we experience deliberate acts of violence.
In elementary school a friend told me that I seemed white to her, I took that as a compliment.
At 11 I fell of the chairlift and a little boy road by me and yelled "chink!" I told no one.
And just the other day as were at a restaurant, I was carrying my daughter and holding my sons hand while my white husband holding the stroller ordered our food and drinks.
As I stood a few feet away with the kids. I overheard him say "the drink is for my wife" to which the cashier responded with a smile "ok, I believe you"
I rounded up the kids and stood almost close enough to be touching my husband to help him with the food, while my son nagged me for a cookie. The cashier hearing my son looked up at me and said "mam if you want to buy a cookie, you will need to go to the other line"
Brown women and brown children did not fit with this white man.
This is the kind of subtle racism that just displays how ingrained our racism is. We don't even know when we are doing it. We don't even see how its racist. We think what's the big deal.
That is a problem.
It's important that we are having these conversations of white privilege, and are outraged by what has happened and what is happening, but if you are surprised by these acts of hate, you have not been paying attention.
What I need to say is that while what is being said may evoke uncomfortable feelings, please think twice before you express, post, question, or commiserate from a place of shame, guilt, anxiety or any other feeling you are trying to avoid or want others make you feel better about.
The discomfort is the point!
It's the place we get to ask the deeper questions. It's the place we can make deeper changes in ourselves and in our culture and the way race has been understood for so long. The work that needs to be done is in the self reflection of where each and every one of us harbors racist thoughts, feelings, emotions and unconscious actions.
Just because you post or repost something that shares the events that have happened does not mean you have really done anything of real change.
Sit with the discomfort, for a while. Find the place that connects you to your heart and not your fear. And when you finding yourself asking the question "how can I help," "what can I do?
Remember to come back to the discomfort. Be with it and repeat.