Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dear White People...

In light of recent events, my Facebook news feed has been full of statuses and links about Rachel Dolezal (thank God that woman's fifteen minutes of fame are basically over), the so-called "rebel" flag, and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. And yeah, Kylie Jenner, too.

I've tried to remain a very neutral stance (at least, to appear to have one), but I have just about reached my breaking point with some of the things I've seen on social media about racial issues in America lately. And that is why I have put hours into writing this post (I even made an outline-- and I literally never outline anything).

Before I start my rant, I want you to know three things:

  1. I will not apologize for my opinions. For all of my life, I have always ended my arguments with "but that's just my opinion," "I don't mean to offend anyone," "but what would I know, anyway," or "I could be wrong." However, today I am going to say exactly how I feel, and I'm not sugarcoating anything simply because it might hurt someone's feelings.
  2. This is not supposed to make you feel guilty about your privilege. It is not your fault that you were born white, just as it is not my fault that I was born black. But it is everyone's responsibility to be well-informed about their community, and that is the purpose of this post. And when I say "You," I don't mean every white person; just the ones I've heard say these things.
  3. Please read this to the end. This post will not look Pinterest-worthy (you should follow me, by the way), and it probably won't be fun to read. But, taking a small amount of time out of your day to understand what it is like to live as a POC will, hopefully, be worth the time spent.
There will be a glossary at the end, so if you find yourself lost with any of the slang I use, just refer to that. Slang and pop culture words are italicized. Other than that, let's get this rant started!

Understand that racism is not dead.
I will admit that society has greatly improved, though. I mean, the African slave trade isn't exactly functioning right now, and the name Jim Crow is one I've only ever seen in history books. But, today's problem (well, one of them) is that racism is dismissed. Yes, we've come a long way, but racism is still here! You're not noticing it because it's sneakier than ever. Racism today is whitewashing. It's casting a nearly all-white cast in a movie set in Egypt (which, to the surprise of many, is in Africa). Or, remember when M. Night Shyamalan made that one movie that will not be named (as it is a disgrace to the Avatar fandom) and a certain Water Tribe girl was played by a white actress? And Sokka was white, too? Literally the only good thing that came from that movie was Seychelle Gabriel (who later went on to voice Asami Sato in The Legend of Korra).

Anyway. Sorry, talking about The Last Airbender makes me really angry. But, back to my point. In addition to whitewashing, there's colorblindness. You may have heard people say, "I don't see race" or "we're all one human race; race doesn't exist." These are some of the most insulting things to say to POC. We know your intentions are good, but you wanna know what that sounds like? It sounds like where we come from doesn't matter; like the answer to ending racism is about forgetting race altogether. However, we should all be proud of our race, because it makes us who we are. So, stop erasing race, and try erasing racism.

Last thing to say on this point: nearly every POC has experienced racism and stereotypes. If you truly believe racism is dead, ask any one of us, and I guarantee you there will be stories. There is also a thing called colorism, but I'll talk about that later. 

The point is this: the face of racism is changing. It no longer looks like cotton picking and segregation. In order to end it, you need to pay attention to it.

Don't downplay our struggles.
This is the problem I've seen on social media lately. It seems that when people (people in general, really) don't understand how someone else feels, they just write it off as not really being a big deal. 

You know, I've heard people say, "y'all need to quit bringing up slavery like it happened to you. It didn't. It was 150 years ago; get over it." Okay, I only saw one person type that, and thank goodness it wasn't one of my Facebook friends because they would have been unfriended in a heartbeat. Yes, it was a long time ago. Should we forget it or pretend it doesn't matter, though? No! Slavery is one of the most evil things humanity is capable of, so don't tell me it's not a big deal anymore when it is. Pff, it's still going on today, even in the United States, with human trafficking. So, to whoever said that: no, I'm not going to get over it. I'm never going to get over it.

And that brings me to my absolute favorite topic, the Confederate flag! I could talk about it all day-- I ain't even kidding. You wanna talk about presidential candidates? Eh, I can't vote for that until 2020 anyway (thanks to turning eighteen three weeks after election day in 2016). You wanna talk about Barack Obama? I'll pass. But the tea is scalding when it comes to the Confederate flag.

Is it so hard to understand that the flag is offensive to millions of Americans? Is it so hard to understand that it represents years of racism and division? And no, I don't care what you have to say about it representing Southern pride or the original intentions. Find another way to be proud of your heritage, because celebrating where you're from shouldn't be at the expense of others. 

No, I have not been "brainwashed" by Liberals. No, I didn't suddenly decide I didn't like the flag after the issue was brought to light a few weeks ago. I've felt this way since I first saw the Confederate flag, which was in elementary school. I have always felt uncomfortable seeing it, but I never said anything before because it wasn't the right time, and I didn't have a strong enough argument. 

Maybe it does represent some white people's heritage. You know what, though? My dad's family is from Alabama. Yup, my family has Southern roots, too. Are you getting my point? That flag does not represent the people of the Southern states. It represents the white people of the Southern states, back during the Civil War. My family isn't proud of this flag; it brought pain to them. So why are you so proud of it?

Maybe it originally was just supposed to represent whatever it was meant to represent. Do you know what a swastika means? And I mean its original intention. Nope, it was not a Nazi symbol. It means "auspiciousness." That's not hate speech. But, you know who Adolf Hitler is, you know who the Nazis are, and you know what happened during the Holocaust. So, when you see the European version of a swastika, you think of those dark years. And you know what? So does Germany. That is why they have banned the Nazi flag. Of course, Neo-Nazis exist, but it shows that the nation is ashamed of its past. 

And one more question for y'all: why do you care so much about this flag? To use your words against you: the war ended 150 years ago, sweetie. Get over it. The Confederacy lost. There is literally no reason to keep bringing the division of our nation to mind.

Now that you know how I and many others feel, you can stop making a joke out of it:

But really. Stop turning our issues into a joke. It's not funny; it's disrespectful.

I can feel this is turning into a pretty long post. I sure hope someone's still reading. 

Also, the violence against us is real. So, stop acting like we deserve it. Stop making up stories about how Michael Brown was a thug (and even if so, why are you looking for reasons an eighteen-year-old deserved to die?) or how Treyvon Martin was a delinquent. Just stop. Maybe you don't realize it, but we're not any more capable of violence than you are. Why is it that the media talks about how the kid who did the Charleston shooting was a lonely, depressed teen when countless black men who were the ones killed have been turned into the villain in many cases? I have three words for you: Aw, heck no.

Stop making it all about you.
First of all, stop changing our hashtags. It's not "All Lives Matter," it's "Black Lives Matter." It's not "All Girls Rock," it's "Black Girls Rock." And let me explain.

Do all lives matter? Of course! Do all girls rock? Yeah, that's why we have feminism. 

But tell me. As a white person, have you been followed by mall cops as you walk through Claire's with your sisters and mother, who are black as well (this happened to me)? Have you been stared at by sales clerks with wary looks on their faces because you left your hood on when you walked into Dollar General to take a call real quick while it was raining outside (this also happened to me)? Have you been double and triple checked in airplane security (this happens to my dad every time he flies, because he kinda looks Middle Eastern and in airports, looking Pakistani or wearing a turban is a sin apparently... he wasn't wearing a turban, obviously, but you get my point)? You probably haven't, unless you have tattoos, a pixie cut, or wildly colored hair.

But, as people of color in general, we have. And we experience it on both sides. To quote Childish Gambino's song, "That Power":

"...White dudes who call me white and then try to hate, when I wasn't white enough to use your pool when I was eight. Stone Mountain, you raised me well, I'm stared at by Confederates but... hated on by both sides... every black, 'you're not black enough,' is a white, 'you're all the same.'"

I think that explains my point quite well. No matter how educated we are, or not educated at all; no matter how dark or light-skinned we are, no matter who we are-- someone has something to say about us. Or worse. Hence, the KKK... Charleston shooting... need I go on?

So, think about that next time you say #whitegirlsdoitbetter or #alllivesmatter. Because white lives have always been treated like they matter; black lives haven't.

And, last on this point: Literally no one hates you. We don't think we're better than you. You know how feminists want to be seen as equal, but they're accused of being man-haters? That's how it is for us, too. Why is it that when someone fights for justice, they're seen as hating the other side? Like, dude, chill. Stop making it about you.

Know when to stop.
Rule of thumb: If you're not black, DO NOT SAY THE 'N' WORD. If it were up to me, black people wouldn't say it, either. I hate it when fellow black people use that word, but more importantly, if ou're not black, DO NOT LET THAT WORD SLIP OUT OF YOUR MOUTH. You will be knocked out, and no one's going to catch you. I mean, you really got it coming to you and high key deserve it.

And don't even think about defending your racist comments with having black friends, because they probably don't approveof what you're saying, either. So, that goes for people who know me in the real life: please don't use me as your golden ticket black friend you mention when you say something out of line. Just apologize, sheesh.

Also, don't tell us what our name is. If someone says they're black, don't correct it to "African-American." Why? Because not all black people are from Africa. I, personally, am (I'm most likely Senegalese, but thanks to the slave trade I can only make educated guesses), but not all of us are. Blacks come from all over-- Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas-- heck, there's even black Mexicans and Indians. So, unless someone calls themself African-American, don't call them that.

And please don't remind us of how it's harder for us to find a man/woman by saying we're not your type. Black men are becoming pretty high in demand (the reasons why are not appropriate for a 12+ blog), but black women aren't. Men like our booties and our boobies, but as for finding someone who really loves us, it's harder. And we know that. We know that finding a husband is less likely for us (although it is definitely possible-- my parents have been married for 30 years!), so don't discourage us even more.

Last, don't even think that cultural appropriation is okay. Yes, Kylie Jenner is a WOC, I believe (I think she's half Armenian), but she is appropriating black culture with the lip injections, all the weaves and cornrows, like she can be like a black girl just by dressing like us or enlarging her lips to look like ours. And by the way, they don't. I'm full black and my lips aren't that big.

Don't downplay our achievements.
You wanna know who benefits the most from affirmative action? White women. Yes, affirmative actions does help minorities as well, but don't tell us that it's easier for us to get into college because standards are lower for us. No.

If I get into Northwestern, it will be because I worked hard. It will be because of my high GPA, numerous extracurriculars, leadership positions, and running my own business. Do you know how heartbreaking it would be if I got in and was told, "well, the standards are lower for you, anyway"? I don't think I need to explain that. We have to be twice as good to receive half the recognition a white person does.

Stay woke.
You made it through my post without getting too bored/offended! Thank you for caring enough to read this thing. So, what's next?

Keep educating yourself. You can never learn too much. Maybe that's the Ravenclaw in me saying that, but seriously. Research is your friend. 

Educate others. You can even share this post if you want. You probably don't want to, but you can. Help others understand that the struggle for equality is not over.

Your privilege is a gift and a tool. Like I said at the beginning: I don't want you to feel guilty about who you are or what you were born into. Use your privilege to your advantage and speak out.

Be that person. Be the person who calls people out when they say ignorant things. Be the person who refuses to stay silent.

Don't stay sleeping. Stay woke.

  • POC: Person of color, people of color
  • Whitewashing: Typically done in the media; imagine a movie about Lupita Nyong'o, only she's portrayed by someone significantly lighter skinned-- even me playing her would be whitewashing
  • Avatar fandom: The fan following of Nickelodeon's animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra
  • Water Tribe: An ethnic group in Avatar; similar to Native Americans or Eskimos
  • Sokka: A main character in A:TLA; he is from the Water Tribe and dark-skinned
  • The Legend of Korra: The sequel series to A:TLA; the protagonist is from the Water Tribe
  • The Last Airbender: God-forsaken film by M. Night Shyamalan; even Prince Zuko's voice actor in the original animated series never watched it because the show's creators thought it was trash
  • Colorblindness: Thinking that ignoring race altogether is the answer to racism
  • Colorism: I never got around to talking about it; it is racism within an ethnic group-- look up the brown paper bag thing that happened at Howard University
  • Tea: Something people mention during rants, especially on Tumblr (i.e. "The tea is hot," "Tea, anyone?", "Sips on tea")
  • Cultural appropriation: Buying a Buddha statue when one isn't Buddhist, wearing a hijab because it's fashionable, wearing a sari when you really have no reason to, etc.
  • WOC: Woman of color, women of color
  • Stay woke: What is sounds like, pretty much; stay awake, be aware

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments appreciated, keep them appropriate, however. Remember, this blog's audience is ages 12+, so be aware of who might be reading.