So this post is in response to something that my friend’s family said (not to my face) a while back. So my friend and I often talk about issues regarding race, gender, and just topics that are relevant in our not so great society today. As college students who are socially conscious people, we find it important to have these conversations and to continue educating ourselves about everything. One thing I talk about frequently is race and my experiences as a black woman. When you live at the intersection of two forms of oppression (sexism and racism), it’s hard to not be aware of the effects it has on my day to day life.
When I walk into a store, I am often followed. I am given weird looks on the street when I wear my natural hair. Sometimes people question my intelligence and my merit. I deal with shit now and I know that the future will only bring more shit my way. So it’s hurtful to hear when my friend’s family, who I consider to be a second family to me, say that I focus too much on race and black and white and that focusing on race is not going to help me get money so I should just focus on my studies (paraphrased here but you get the idea). I, as a black woman, cannot just ignore my identities. I cannot ignore the tiny one bedroom apartment my family of five lived in Brooklyn for 9 years because my parents couldn’t afford much. I cannot ignore the fact that I had to learn how to love and care for the hair that actually grows from my scalp because I was taught to assimilate to “whiteness” and suffer hair damage and scalp burns to obtain the ideal image of beauty. I cannot ignore that I was often called “ghetto” because of the way I spoke and dressed. I can go on and on but I won’t because I think you get the idea. When you are in a marginalized group, you have no option but to focus on your marginalization. You can try to ignore it and pretend you’re not pigeonholed but the truth is always there that you are. Their white privilege allows my friend’s family not to worry about race.
Their whiteness allows them to be blindsided by the oppression of others. And their anti-intellectualism due to their conservative Christian faith allows them to stay in their ignorance and never seek the truth. It’s funny how it took me almost 10 years to realize how racist and sexist they are. I’ve known this family since I moved to PA at the age of 9 and they’ve always been nice people. Just because they are nice though, doesn’t mean they have great values and ideologies. Many of the “nice” people during the civil rights era were also racists as well. Niceness does not cover the hateful language and bigotry that one may hold. It just doesn’t. So as I tried to release my emotions and vent from their hurtful comments, this is what I wrote:
THE WOKE BLACK WOMAN’S REBUTTIAL
She should be focusing on her studies
And not on black and white.
That is not going to help her get any money.
She’s too racially aware…..
I’m standing still
But mentally I’m on the ground.
Feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.
Hurt by the ones who I onced called family
I am too racially aware.
Because I was taught at a young age
That I am different
And considered “the other”.
That the color of my skin
Ultimately defines who I am in this society.
My identities are a threat to the people.
My race is the gun
My gender is the trigger
A double menace to society is what I be
As a black woman in America
I am hit with a double whammy.
The intersections of my oppression are more than unique.
A constant struggle that I must deal with but accept as “normalcy”.
Because when I am told I am pretty for a black girl
Or that it’s amazing that I have all that knowledge in this big beautiful head of mine
It’s supposed to be a “normal” complement.
So I smile..and accept these back handed compliments
I trudge through life
And wear my thick armor to protect myself
It becomes routine
I become a soldier
A strong independent black woman
Facing this world that doesn’t want me
In a society that wasn’t made for me
I must be strong
But constantly worried about whether an action that happens to me
Is a result of my race
Having to navigate a PWI
Where professors encourage me to drop out of the sciences
Or are surprised by my stellar gpa
As if I am a golden egg in an Easter egg hunt
A rare commodity
Because I can’t be brilliant
I can’t be beautiful
I can’t be me
I can’t speak up for me
Because being socially aware is a crime
Policed by the ones I cared about the most
I can’t be educated
Because I become dangerous
I shouldn’t be racially aware
Because It’s not like I’m oppressed
It’s not like I have things to worry about
It’s not like that will help me get a job
I have to focus on my studies
How can I focus and turn a blind eye to these microaggressions and oppressions
That me and my people face?
We should not focus on black and white, yes
But we cannot fall into this colorblind mess
Because when you don’t see color
You don’t see me
You erase my experiences
You fail to acknowledge that our differences matter
As much as our similarities do
Because as Audre Lorde said
“There is no such thing as as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”
So please check your privilege before you police me
Because you don’t go through what I do