It was 2011. There I sat in my Christian Living Class at my Christian University listening to a white classmate tell me and everyone else in the room that racism didn’t exist anymore. On paper, who could doubt her statement? It was 2011. More than a hundred years after slavery and more than 50 years after Jim Crow era laws. We had just elected America’s first black president a few years prior. Oprah was one of the richest people in the world. Hip hop was no longer an underground genre, but one more synonymous with Pop music. Racism must be dead. Hurray!
Except, that wasn’t true. I sat there quietly steamed with rage and sadness. In my head, I had stood up and yelled and called her ignorant. But, in reality I sat back frozen in my seat. Why? Because in that moment I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.
We are taught in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to maintain the status quo. So, we do just that. We change our hair, the way we speak, and the way that we dress so that we make everyone else more comfortable. In that moment in that classroom I didn’t want to be the stereotypical angry black girl I’m sure they’d seen on TV. I flashed back to elementary school when my white classmate called my friend the “n” word. She assured me with a smile she wasn’t talking about me because I’m different from “them”. In that college classroom my anger burned, but I wanted to keep the peace. Isn’t that crazy? This girl, dripping with privilege, had just told me that racism didn’t exist. That my experience as a black woman in America wasn’t valid. That it was all in my head. That if I would just stop talking about racism then it would just go away like the boogie man.
But, it won’t. We must talk about it. We must talk about it because we need sympathizers from the majority in order to really make a change. In order for racism and ignorance to be called out and heard for what it is. As I sat in that classroom completely and utterly alone, I needed one of my white classmates to speak up. I needed someone, anyone, to stand up in my defense. I needed it. Had I stood up and said something I would have been met with rolled eyes. I would have been told to stop living in the past. I was never a slave so how could I possibly feel justified with the chip resting on my shoulder?
I could write a novel full of the racist experiences that myself and my family have endured. But, that’s not what this blog is about. Why talk about the past when racism runs rampant TODAY like Godzilla destroying that town in Japan? It seems that people are shocked that the racists and white supremacists have come out in what will forever be known as the Trump era. But, why? Racism has never gone anywhere.
I knew that in 2011 and I know that today. What saddens me is not the racists parading about with tiki torches, it’s not the racists that followed me as I walked home from my high school as a teenager calling me the “n” word. It’s not the fact that I’ve been told I’m pretty for a black girl. It’s not that I’ve been followed in more retail stores than I can count. It’s not that an Arlington, Tx police officer slammed my brother against a car just because he could. It’s not even the fact that when the latest officer involved shooting comes to light I know that the officer will not be charged no matter how clear the body cam footage.
No, what saddens me is the people who tell me I’m crazy. They tell me that racism doesn’t exist. They say that “ he should have just complied with instructions”. They curl up into themselves with eyes slammed shut because seeing the world for what it is— is just too uncomfortable. They tell me that what I’m seeing, what I’m feeling is not racism but just a few bad apples acting out.
Open. Your. Eyes. We are hurting. We are suffering. We are dying. We need you to say something. To do something. Instead of being so quick to dismiss a POC’s experience, try to learn from them. Don’t tell them they are crazy. Listen, learn, and be an advocate for those who would otherwise go unheard. Realize that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.
Just don’t insult us by making us think we’re crazy. Don’t tell me you’re color blind. I want you to see me. I want you to see us.