Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Race relations in America?

The topic I'm writing about is sometimes difficult to discuss, but I think it's an important one and that we as citizens of the world don't talk about it enough. Before you begin reading this you need to know that I'm going to talk about race relations. It's not meant to offend anyone, but it is how I feel. You don't have to agree or understand it. You may have been one of the people that felt after Obama was elected that America had embarked on a new chapter of equality unprecedented in our history. I have to admit I was not one of those people. I was a skeptic. I wanted to believe, but you see I live in a world where things like this and this happen. So perhaps my view is a bit colored by my life experience.
I don't think I'm your stereotypical woman of color (if there's even such a thing). Or maybe I am since most of the woman of color I've known are strong. They are resourceful and self reliant in a way I've never seen in women who are not of color. I'm not passing a judgement here, I just think we've had to be like this because the plight of our men left us to care for our families in a way that other women haven't had to. I'm kind of crafty and domestic, but not because I read about it in some book or a group told me I should be. It's because that's what I knew growing up and that's what made the most sense to me. I had a very thought provoking conversation with one of my white co-workers recently. Let me explain a few things. I grew up on military installations. I wasn't really aware of racism or discrimination on the basis of color until I was much older (college age). It was very shocking and disappointing to me. I mean I had friends of all colors and felt accepted and valued by them for the person I was. Fast forward to present times. I moved to the south. Don't get me wrong, I love it here...now, but it was like falling back in time and not in a sweet Pleasantville way, but more in a Jim Crow kind of way. Moving here really changed my world view and made me a more cynical person than I was. I still have friends of all colors, but I probably am more aware now of our cultural and racial difference than I ever would have been if I never lived here. In fact when I encounter certain experiences I generally wonder if race is a part of it. If I'm treated a certain way such as being ignored in a store by the employee or followed around the store to determine if I'm shoplifting, I always wonder if it's because of the color of my skin. I don't want to think that way, but it happened so many times that it became the norm and perhaps I even came to expect it. It's the little things that chip away at your humanity, things no one considers to be harmful, but when stacked up tall, you realize that the assaults can leave a wound that never quite heals over. For example I've noticed in my work place some people can make caustic albeit funny remarks and their remarks are perceived as harmless and witty. If I behave in a similar fashion I'm thought of as the angry neck rolling finger pointing "big" black woman that will kick your @ss if you cross her (just for the record, I've never been in a fight in my life!). It weighs on me mightily. Often I feel isolated and separate from other women. They don't get my life (and perhaps I don't get theirs either). I mean how could they really and should I expect them to? There's no need for them to extend themselves to understand my world view is there when the world is set up from their prospective. Most images seen on television, most images in magazines...what's considered the norm is not my face. Society helps perpetuate that we are still separate. You rarely hear or read a story discussing a white individual that points out in fact that they are indeed white. But you rarely if ever read or hear a news story pertaining to a nonwhite person that doesn't disclose that fact. It seems that it's essential that we know that the person is black or Hispanic or the story has little merit. I find it a bit ironic because really we are all probably more alike than we are different, but where is the impetus for us to discover that? We all want the same things. To be happy, to love and be loved.
I remember having a conversation with another white co worker about why she wouldn't attend an HBCU to further her education. To me, why wouldn't she? She'd get a great education and because she was a minority on campus she'd have an abundance of funding options. Her response was she wouldn't feel comfortable. How ironic. All my life it's been expected that the world I live in is suppose to feel "right" to me. Most of the times it's fine, it doesn't bother me and I too take it for granted that this how life is. Sometimes though, sometimes I feel something inside of me that objects to this and makes me a little...well, I guess the best word I can use to describe it is sad and maybe just the tiniest bit alone on this planet.
And yet as a mother I am still hopeful. Each time I send my children out into the world I am hopeful for their future and that their experiences will be different. I am hopeful that they will be judged not by their skin, but by their character, their own abilities and by all the gifts they have to offer.


Heather Kennedy said...

Please don't ever stop sharing this kind of thing. I happened to sit at a table at the newbie breakfast across from Tami Winfrey-Harris of the anti-racist parent blog. I only found her blog recently (she also blogs at whattamisaid.blogspot.com) and her post today really got to me. The thing is, I don't know what helps except to say I see what you see and it pisses me off. It's not as easy as knowing that race doesn't matter to me because it still makes people say and do ignorant things. **hugs**

Jen said...

Well said!

Dawn said...

Thanks so much for posting this Sabrina!!! I really enjoyed reading what you had to say and even though we have talked about this many times it's still nice to "hear" your voice in writing!!!

Scheherazaad said...

Up here in the Great White North (Canada) I had the same hopes as you do, for my children but then those days would come when something stupid or unfair happened at school and I would have to go forth as a strong Black woman and be an advocate for my child. Now that they are young adults I hope that I have prepared them to advocate for themselves no matter where they choose to live. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

KBriggs said...

As a Latin person person i see what you mean.
But it does worry me how my children will view the world. i do have a pre-conception about what people will think of me or my kids. i dont want for them to feel that they are "different" just because they are biracial.
many times, i wonder if it will be good for us to go back to Bolivia, it will be too easy since they will be "admire" by others because they are lighter color but that could also make them racist or even vain.
just yesterday, i was going into a restaurant and Faith saw a little kid and said baby and try to touch his arm, and the mom said.... "DONT TOUCH HIM!!". i wanted to slapped her across the face but i kept myself quiet and ignore her(that's my way of dealing with it most times).

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

Sabrina, excellent post. You mirror all of my sentiments . . . I too hope that one day we do truly become a post-racial society. But that day most assuredly is not here yet.