THE LAST DAY!!!
MY STORY OF RACISM:
Our home sits on an incline, just around the bend of the very last street in our upscale subdivision, a cul-de-sac with no exit. In a neighborhood that regularly sees 1200 kids on Halloween, we had 7 last year, and 3 of them were the children of a friend of mine in the neighborhood. We get no traffic save deliveries, waste management, neighbors and their visitors. Ours is not the best home in the neighborhood, nor is it the largest. In fact, it’s small and plain, compared to most around us. The plants in the pots at the front door are dead because I can’t seem to remember to water them, so we’re definitely not winning the HOA house of the month anytime soon.
I tell you this somewhat defensively, to get you to understand, especially on this, the 10th day of my challenge to expose racism, how it feels when a pick-up truck full of white, middle-age men sits at the foot of the driveway watching my husband as he does some exterior home maintenance and waters the plants. For 15 minutes, not doing anything but sitting there watching.
Or when, on day 7 of this challenge, a white woman walked up our street, stopped in front of our house and snapped pictures before turning around and leaving.
Or when, while he’s walking the dog, a white woman stops Jacques and demands to know if he lives in this neighborhood.
In isolation, any of those events could maybe be explained away. Maybe the guys were lost and stopped to check the map. Maybe they were realtors checking out … nah, I can’t even finish that thought. There were no homes for sale on our street and none of them seemed to have a map in his hands.
There is no way, after a lifetime of witnessing the racism and bias that I have witnessed, no way that I can imagine anything other than people feeling threatened because my husband is black. After 10 days of reading my stories, can you?
And so we live with the constant, pervasive, nagging thought that we will be targeted. In this beautiful neighborhood, in the comfort of our own home.
So at the end of this challenge, I beg you:
– Please don’t ever tell me again, “Don’t worry! Everyone loves Jacques! No one would do anything to hurt him!” Someone literally said that to me once. And it is literally bull*&#$@. Only the people who know him won’t hurt him.
– Please don’t ever say again, “Don’t worry — he’ll be with me! He’s safe!” Said by a white man, of course. Jokingly, but still. WHY SHOULD HE NEED YOU TO BE SAFE??? Seriously. Think about that. Why should a grown man need another grown man to ensure his safety in normal, everyday life??
– Please don’t ever imagine, for one second, that racism doesn’t exist or that we’ve made great progress. It is not only offensive but a real violation of trust. I cannot trust you if you believe that. I do not believe you will fight for my children’s rights or protections.
– Please don’t say you don’t see color. Ever. Like delete that from your repertoire of things you think are supportive. It is not. Not only is it offensive because it implies that you do not value something that is the very essence of my husband and children, but it tells me I can’t trust you to care what they face because you don’t see it. Their color is beautiful and it is important. They need you to see it and appreciate it.
MY WHITE PRIVILEGE:
As I end this challenge, I want to tell you about how my white privilege has affected me personally over the course of these days. It has caused hurt and anger in my children, especially my daughters. So I yield my remaining time to them.
First, from Rebekah:
“It’s frustrating that you are telling these stories. Not that you shouldn’t be, because you should. But that you are getting such good feedback. I feel if I were to post this, or someone darker than me were to post it, we wouldn’t get nearly as good feedback. I’d be seen as angry or like “yeah typical POC story” where you’re praised. Isabelle was frustrated at that but my opinion was you need to be saying it because of that. You’re directing this toward non-black people who need to see things a different way and you calling out yourself and your privilege lets them know that even though they have done things that can seem as racist, they are not necessarily a bad person, that they can improve. It’s all about how they recover from it. What they do after. What they do with their power.”
And when I apologized for that, because I know it to be true, not because I feel guilty for having told the stories, she said this,
“It’s not something to apologize for I don’t think. But you acknowledge it and that’s where it’s important. You know that’s happening and you acknowledge it and use your powerful, heard voice to change people around you. You know that your speaking out is powerful and that me speaking out is expected.”
“I was mad at you at first but it took me a while to realize that I’m not mad at you. You can’t change that you have white skin and privilege. And I’m not mad at you for having white skin and therefore privilege. I’m mad at our society and system for constantly amplifying white voices over black voices. When I speak about my experience it’s a complaint. When you speak about my experience you’re able to say it and get praise. It’s not as hard for white people to talk about race amongst themselves bc it’s simply an idea or hypothetical. But when a black person is brought into the discussion, it becomes more real and tangible and quite frankly personal and thus harder to talk about. It’s an actual experience and struggle that I (and the black community) face daily. It’s not hypothetical. It’s actual lives being taken.”
Nothing. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I have not quoted Jack nor have I said much about him. That’s because Jack has refused to participate. He wants no part of my telling these stories. I think the anger and frustration that yet another white person, even his own mother, is trying to tell the story of racism is just too much. For the most part, I have tried to respect and not push him, because he is absolutely right. It’s not my story to tell.
So, stop listening to me. Stop needing other white people to call out racism to you in order for you to see it. Go talk to people of color, subscribe to news sources written by people of color (try The Root, on FB for example), read books written by black authors, get out of your comfort zone. Don’t rely on me to tell you what America is really like for people of color. How would I know??? I’m white. I observe; I don’t live it. Trust black voices. Trust black people to tell their own story. Not doing so is your white privilege. Stop resting on it.
Originally posted June 2020 on https://medium.com/@invisibleleftovers