*Disclaimer: One should not read this series, if they have a difficult time understanding the use of “white”, in reference to the institutional structure and that a white person has the privilege to exist as an individual.
Thank you so much for coming on this journey. We have reached the conclusion to this series. I know that it has been long and exhausting, but that is how constantly dealing with race is like. It is exhausting but you learn to hang in there. So I want to say thank you to those who stayed and hung on. I appreciate you letting me speak my truth and I hope it spoke something to your heart. In this process, I am hoping to find peace and hoping it helps you keep your’s.
My Four Friends: Part IV
One of my other failures, as a friend to a white person. Was failing to inform my friends of my constant and ever present fear of an unexpected racial situation or a physical attacked. Because that is an ever present reality in my life. Thinking back, I began to recall incidences with my best friend, where I stated that there are a lot or might be a lot of white people in a bar or restaurant. And I recalled never explaining my statement, allowing my best friend to just assume I did not want to be around white people. Instead of the fact that being around a lot of white people; especially when alcohol is involved makes me extremely uncomfortable and nervous. My best friend does not know the fear of a stranger seeing you and deciding they do not like your skin and then unknowingly attacking you. My best friend did not understand this fear or concern and therefore, from her eyes as a white person, my statements seemed racist and not as actual concerns for my safety.
I place blame on myself, for not being vocal enough about my lived experience. This would have helped my white friends understand the different ways we experience the world. They see bars, nightclubs, stores and classrooms; I see a need for precautions and possible hostile racial situations.
Living as a person of color has always been a chore. Everyday I wake up knowing that when I step outside my door, I must prepare myself to exist as a black person. Which means I have the weight of knowing, when people see me they don’t see me, they see my skin. They see whatever they have correlated with the sight of my skin and I have no control over this perception.
I have to consider who I am and what that means to others everyday. I know that I have to take the necessary precautions when stepping into a new environment; a bar, restaurant, classroom or store. Where I could possibly be the only person who looks like me and that may put me in a situation of harm. I would need to be on guard and ready to defend myself. I do not have the privilege of just existing and enjoying my day, I live in a state of continuous caution. Because I could just be sitting, talking to friends and enjoying a pint. Then, someone who decided they no longer like me, could slam a banana down on the table in front of me (yes, this happened recently in my life).
Or l could run into situations where a person, who does not think they are or mean to be racist. Perpetuate the same racial bias and pain as racists do, with their white savior complex. Just as my sister experienced a few weeks ago, while eating dinner with my nephew. As my sister sat waiting for the check, watching my nephew play with the restaurant provided games. A woman came up to them and began to apologize profusely about the current state of the country. As tears filled her eyes, she then offered my sister $20; apologizing and saying she wish she had more but that’s all she could give. My sister was completely shocked. She attempted to explained to the woman, that she could pay for her meal and did not need the woman’s money. But nothing could keep this woman from causing a scene. Continuing to offer her unsolicited sacrifice, continuing to proclaim, it was “all she had”. She continued her display to the only black people in the restaurant. My sister continued to persist in her refusal, expressing that she did not want the woman’s money but the woman still left it at the table. Along with the embarrassment she drew to my sister and nephew, who were just trying to have a nice dinner. But instead of being a mother and son, out for a meal. They became the poor black family in the restaurant, who needed a white savior. And the woman most certainly posted the event on her Facebook; most likely receiving virtual pats on the back, for her saint-like generosity. But she was no saint, she is in the same company as those who think welfare queen, when they see a black woman in the store. Those who think all black people live in the inner cities, or those who say “urban youth” when they mean black kids.
Living your life as a person of color, you have to prepare yourself to make decisions on how to navigate racial situations, well intentioned or not. You do not have the choice to just exist in the world, your skin will always perpetuate a perceived narrative.
My white friends do not understand having to be ready to switch on a dime, from having a good time enjoying your day. To defending your existence. And usually not defending yourself, when it is absolutely called for. Having to ignore it, swallowing the hurt and embarrassment; in order to not cause a scene. The weight of holding in humiliation because you would not want to look like the “angry black woman”. Because you would not want to embarrassed friends or further draw comparisons to an angry ape. Knowing that it’s your responsibility as the person of color, to handle the racial situation in a manner that best appeases the whites in the room. My white friends did not understand that but that is on me, for holding back the truth.
After another failed attempt at a relationship with someone I should have given up on years ago. Friends started suggesting a change in my mating habits. The main suggestion was to cut white guys from the prospective pool. Several friends suggested this, one of them being white himself. And now after this situation, the main suggestion has been to make a friend of color and try not to depend on white people as friends.
I do not know, if this is the best suggestions. I do not know if cutting myself off from white people will fix things or make them worse. I do not know, what if it was not the true issue with my best friend. At least, I would like to think that. Maybe it was the near decade in age difference. I grew up through 80’s conflicts, she had High School Musical and That’s So Raven. But I know race was the sole factor. Maybe it was my past experiences, maybe I experience more racial trauma than other people she ever met. Maybe we came from two very different worlds and we tried too hard not to acknowledge it.
But I will acknowledge it in the future, I will speak up and express my feelings. I will let my friends know how their words are effecting me. I will address their microaggressions. I will make them uncomfortable and we will discuss and acknowledge who we are. That is what I promise myself for my future.
I hope in her future relationships, my best friend acknowledges the differences and learns to speak on them peacefully. I hope in some way, she has learned to be more gentle with her words and judgements. I hope that my best friend, is able to find new friends of color and that they are able to grow in their knowledge of one another’s experiences. I do not want to cut myself off from those who are different, I want to learn from them. I hope she does the same.
I hear some white people often complaining that PoC always make things about race and that we are obsessed with it. But we have no choice, we live race everyday and it’s mostly not by our choosing. I would love to be able to just live my life to day as an individual in the world but the truth of the matter is; I cannot even have a friendship without race becoming an issue. And that’s my inescapable truth. I accept that.
I do not see a future, where I will be able to just live in my identity freely. But I can at least make sure that I can live my identity with the people who are important, by taking the step to speak up and stop trying to keep the peace. And I hope me speaking on my experience with these relationships, inspires others to speak up and learn to dialogue about their differences. Address those microaggressions in their relationships; be your loved one’s best resource. Most importantly, I hope we learn to listen to each other. Learn to listen with love.