Why do you think it is so difficult for people to talk about race?
May I just say that of all the prompts for September, this one scared me the most! I came
to skipping it altogether, but my mind refused to let me. Being a writer is something else, isn't it? Okay, let's get into it. *breathes deep and exhales loudly*
About a year ago, I started speaking openly on social media about race, racism, and my experiences as Black woman in America. After having played the part of The Respectable/Safe/Nonthreatening Black Friend for decades (I am now 32 years old), my soul needed to let go of that dead weight. So, I laid my burdens down and got comfortable. It was incredibly freeing and invigorating, but I ruffled more than a few ignorant feathers. Rather than engaging with or trying to understand me, though, I was accused of hating White people (I most certainly do not!) and lacking full control of my sanity (debatable, depending on the day).
It was so messy, I deactivated my Facebook account and vowed never to return*. I also lost a few friends I'd previously held dear. Didn't see that coming, either...
Since then, I've continued to delve into these issues by reading and sharing my thoughts here, as well as on my Twitter and YouTube accounts. Just the other night, I had a fantastic interaction with a young White woman I follow on Twitter, which shed some light on the reactions I'd received last year. What drew me to her in the first place was how outspokenly anti-racist she was/is, and I inquired as to how she came to see things so clearly. I was surprised to find that she'd been raised with an almost militant version of the colorblind ideology. In her household, it was forbidden to acknowledge even the most superficial racial differences because the only people who focused on such things were racist.
. That mindset was so ingrained that she would experience feelings of panic whenever the subject of race came up in school or amongst her friends. She began to question this viewpoint during her adolescence and as she matured, she realized the many fallacies of this worldview. By choosing not to see color, people erase cultural identities, and are also able to ignore the systemic racism that is built into every facet of our society.
If we're all colorblind, then these racist caricatures shouldn't be offensive, right? NO.
Throughout our discussion, one sentence kept coming to mind (
You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.
This young woman had committed to doing the very hard work of not only thinking critically about race, but translating those thoughts into action by speaking out and listening to--and believing--people of color when we share the reality of our experiences. I am incredibly thankful for her and I applaud her efforts. However, let us not forget that Black, brown, yellow, and red people have
talking about race (
...) for centuries, but our voices are routinely dismissed or silenced every single day.
I think the real question we need to examine is this: Why is it so difficult for White people to talk about race?