Today's lesson, Racism. If you see something written here that you’ve said or done, use it as an opportunity. Take it as a wake up call and make the decision to grow, change and be conscious of your own privilege. Remember, I am not a speaker for the entirety of a people.
This is a situation that is hard to step back from. It’s hard to see “The big picture.”
Outside of the early years of Elementary school, I am willing to bet that as a white person, every single racially based conversation you’ve ever had with a PoC has been your first time having the conversation but it hasn’t been theirs.
I don’t know you. I don’t know the conversations you have. What I do know is that with every American, or any person living in a first world country for that matter, we see our view first, everyone else’s second. It sounds horrible but this is part of our make up. Your environment has so much to do with who you are as a person. Now, when getting into a racial conversation with PoC, the questions you ask are to help you better understand their point of view. For you, it’s a learning experience, a time to better your understanding of another person or people and something you likely believe everyone should try to do. For the PoC, it’s another day of teaching another white person. They’ve answered every question you’ve asked before. They’ve heard every scenario you put forth. They often know what you’re going to say before you say it and it has nothing to do with your intellect or your predictability. If you and the PoC were raised in the same country, then you have seen the same news programs, the same tv shows, the same commercials, the same movies, likely been taught similar lessons in school, ect. The mind set of the dominant race is going to all have a similar view point. As is the mind set of the non-dominant race.
Every question you ask has been asked before. It has not only been asked before, it’s been asked to the specific individual that you are now asking. Many occasions, especially if you are asking questions at the wrong time, will get you a negative reaction. This is bad for us. White people see our reaction to not wanting to educate as “Bad tempered Negro” and then they, themselves are the innocent victims who made an attempt to “Learn and grow.” This is a false.
The comparison I could make to how you should move forth with your questions or your mind set is the “Cheated on lover.” You know how the Self Help Gurus always talk about not bringing your past relationship into your present one? That is a lovely statement. Is it realistic? Nope. No, I don’t believe in the “Punish this person for what the last person did.” Which, I think a lot of people do. I am talking more about protecting yourself.
Scenario: You were madly in love with your significant other. This person cheated on you. Your heart was broken and you were at the lowest point of your life. When you finally get to a place where you are ready to date again, you realize that you notice things that you didn’t notice in your previous relationship. The person that cheated on you would say they had to work late and wouldn’t want you to ever stop by with dinner for them. So does this person. Your ex used to get phone calls and take them into the other room to talk. So does this person. Your ex used to disappear for hours at a time with no explanation and if you asked questions, they would get angry and turn it back on you as if your asking of the questions was unreasonable. So does the new person.
If this happened to you, you would notice these things a lot quicker than you did the last time. You would question more often than you did the last time. You would be far more aware that you were the last time.
Now, to the person who is actually dating the person that was cheated on. They may see this and feel like “They are being punished for someone else’s crime.” Here’s the thing though, you’re not. The cheated on person is trying to protect themselves from another heartbreak. Here’s the thing people seem to forget though, even if it is a case where you are feeling like you are being treated unfairly because of something someone else did, the only thing you have to do is not do what they did.
Okay you feel like you are being treated unfairly. Well, in the above scenario, why would it be so difficult to just calm your partner’s worries? Over time, if you can show that you are nothing like the previous person the guard will be let down. The part that seems to confuse people here is that “Showing that you are not like the previous person” has NOTHING TO DO WITH DOING BACK FLIPS or putting the person up on a pedestal. What the person wants is to not be cheated on. That might mean that in the beginning you have to tell them where you are. It might feel like you are being policed but if that is how you feel, this person may not be worth the time it would take to get the guard down in the first place.
It’s the same with white people questioning our feelings or experiences with race. The biggest difference being that in the above scenario, the cheated on person got to “Take some time” to re-cooperate and get back to feeling healthy. PoC don’t get a “Time out.”
Many of us are going to be standoffish because so MANY white people have started of with “Reasonable questions” only to end up using the questions to make some racist statement and defend their own racist actions. THIS IS SO COMMON. I can not stress this enough. It seems to be some sort of game white people will play. See how much they can get away with saying DIRECTLY TO A POC before the PoC get angry. Then, when the PoC DOES get angry, it is their (the PoC) fault. It is they who are being unreasonable. The poor innocent white person was just making a point. How dare us get upset over someone else’s view point. It’s a free country and they have freedom of speech.
So maybe you aren’t like that. Maybe you want to ask questions to actually learn. That is great except, we’ve been down this road before. We’ve thought other white people were “Just trying to learn” too. Now, you feel like you are being punished for what they did, right? Except, you have forgotten one single item. If you feel punished, if you aren’t getting the reception you think you deserve, you have failed to follow number seven on this list.
What many of you fail to realize is that it isn’t the simple asking of questions that is the problem. It is you feeling entitled to the answers about my life without feeling entitled to make sure that I know you are a good person first. You feel entitled to enter the conversation I am having with another PoC but you don’t feel entitled to make sure that both me and the other person are comfortable with you being there.
The asking of questions are not off limits. The asking of questions are, however on a case by case, EARNED basis. You aren’t entitled to answers when you didn’t feel entitled to make sure I was comfortable answering them first.