Mediations on Race and Ethnicity / Uncomfortable Conversations / Looking Forward23 Sep 2018
– Update –
I was bored and decided to look back on this post. When I wrote it I was having a desperate discourse with myself, rather than the reader. I thought about why I felt that way, and in no way meant this to be a blanket statement. However I do understand that many of my peers do share this similar sentiment - not towards White people in particular, but people of different backgrounds / cultures. I wanted to take time an re-engage with myself about this. I’ve ruminated on this issue so many times after talking to different people. After a somewhat slow osmosis I started to think about the passivity of people and linking my thoughts together with Audre Lorde (which I mentioned above) and other prominent activists (James Baldwin, Malcom X, etc.) and their tendency to engage with people. I thought about the press and its gradual transitions from an honorable process (FDR) to its current polemic and violent nature.
I’m hesitant to say that it was an “Aha!” moment, rather than an “oh yeah, well I guess so” type of moment. My conclusion is that people refuse to engage with each other empathetically and with open ears. We are so concerend with replying to one another, what to say, that we lose tangent of other people’s thought streams. We don’t take the time to consume and interpret other peoples’ thoughts for what they are - rather we are quick to jump to conclusions. Similarly I am too, and I’m not going to say that this conclusion jumping isn’t warranted. But I wish we were more patient and honest with each other. I really wish we were able to expand our capability for acceptance. This isn’t a blame or anything - just an opinion.
It’s hard to describe, but I can feel my vocabulary and mind lock up when I’m in a group of White people. I can physically feel my body tense up, and my mind contort itself in different ways. It becomes harder for me to speak. It is difficult because where I live is heavily condensed of White folks. It is difficult because they are privileged too, and in that sense, do not have the same set of experiences that I have had concerning race. This is not a disqualifier, rather it is a fact that I’ve come to accept about people; we are all different and together we need to love each other for who we are.
However there are days I wonder if I grew up conditioned by Anglo-Saxon standards. Was it because my father was an English major, and had a deeply romanticized view of White history? Was it him who told me that White people deserve a higher level of interaction and are warranted more comfort than others? Was it him who tried to make me believe that White folks are inherently more intelligent than others? There are moments when I wonder if people of color are forever doomed to the stereotypes and prejudices that have annihilated our cultures. Unfortunately I wouldn’t like to know the answer to this question.
Despite my pessimism with regards to the experiences of people of color, the reality is that it is not just us who experience discomfort and frustration around White folks. I have spoken to my friend, who is a wonderful person and a White woman. She too experiences this struggle, she speaks of it when she works in an area where there is not many White people. She tells me she is uncomfortable around people of color, and that it frustrates her to no end.
The reality is that the discomfort and emotional / physical exhaustion exists everywhere. It is this un-nameable feeling that exists within all of us. There are many questions that I have. How do we accept the differences amongst one another? How do we shatter the invisible barriers that disconnect us from each other? How can we put a name to something that we can barely explain?
I made an attempt this year at speaking up and becoming more honest with who I was. At distilling my abstract emotions into something more concrete and fulfilling. To some degree I have succeeded and to some degree, I failed.
I want to make a stronger attempt at speaking up, for the causes I deeply care for. For the pain that people struggle to admit in our most vulnerable selves. I had held back on this issue for a long time because I thought my experiences were invalid. I envisioned myself as crazy and neurotic. I thought myself to be insane and delusional. But then I realized that this discomfort is pervasive amongst all people. Of course it is a discomfort more definitive in people of color, but it is also existent in white folks too.
The question as always is how do we solve this ongoing disconnect? How do we reunite with the people who we have chosen to separate from? It is trite to say that folks should simply just love, and that through love it’ll become better. The reality is for folks to speak about it. We must listen to each other’s stories actively, validate each other’s experiences thoughtfully, and respect each other’s presence wholeheartedly. It is with these three focal points coupled with the burden of speaking up that we will unearth the pains we have hidden.
Note: Thank you to the lovely Thu Nguyen for always taking the due diligence to read over my very primitive wriitng. You are a wonderful human being who knows how to give critical and wise feedback with empathy and compassion, and have also transformed many of my pieces.