My daughter slept through the whole night last night without waking up one time! And she slept in until 7am!! It was truly beautiful.
Somehow, my brain still feels tired. Yesterday I talked to the program director at my organization about race. You may have noticed I was using the term African American, and that’s because when I have asked my clients what race they identify as, they were telling me African American. I was really surprised. I thought the agreed upon term was “black,” but after hearing it from several people in a row I just figured I had gotten it wrong. When I told my program director about this experience, he said they were answering me that way because they’re used to checking the “African American” box on forms, but I wasn’t wrong. Most black people don’t identify as being “African,” and “black” is generally the agreed upon term.
We talked for an hour and a half. Some parts of the conversation were helpful, and others were painful and frustrating. For example, there was a period of time that he kept insisting that I learn about black history so that I can understand better. He gave me example after example of how black people have been mistreated and oppressed and grossly abused. He insisted that this was how I was going to improve my relationship with the black community. I felt extremely conflicted. I tried to explain that the more I learn about the terrible things that black people have endured, the more anxious and upset I feel. I already have a really good idea, and I don’t see the benefit of pounding that idea in harder. My discomfort comes from the deep responsibility I feel to do something about it, and my belief that I am somehow unequipped to do so. I literally started tearing up and was like, “if you’re telling me that immersing myself in this stuff is how I am going to grow, I don’t know if it’s something I can do…”
I think he was having a hard time hearing me at first, because he was really excited that I was interested in improving my relationship with the black community, and I suspect he had a lot of ideas of how he would help me before he even heard where I was coming from. I am not a typical white person. I have a certain background that has resulted in a lot of white guilt. I tried to share the pattern I’ve experienced of interaction with certain black people where it seems like they sense my skittish nature and use it to take out their anger on all white people. It’s not like this with all black people, but it’s happened enough times to be a pattern.
The part I took away from the conversation that was helpful was the notion that many black people are operating from a certain set of valid beliefs—beliefs about an oppressive system—and, being white, they are going to associate me with the larger system. He explained that most black people don’t trust anybody. I need to understand that however people are treating me—nicely or not—is less of a reflection of me and more of a reflection of their experience. It’s. Not. Personal.
He pointed out how, as a white person, when I’m sitting across from another white person, neither one of us are thinking, “that person is going to judge me for being white.” We get to totally skip that part of the interaction. With a black person, though, the black person is definitely thinking I could be judging them for their race, and, in my case, I’m thinking it too. That’s really important to just be aware of.
My job is to show black people that I am a unique individual. He gave me tips about how I can more effectively do this. The two things I remember most were as follows:
1) Mindfully push back. He said that black people will respect this if it’s done right. If something is said to insinuate that I am just a privileged white person, it’s okay to say, “Hey, I know a lot of white people out there are ignorant, and I’m sure I have my stupid moments, too. But I’m here to know you, not to judge you.”
2) Humor. Laughing and joking is a great way to break the ice.
I also just finished watching The People VS OJ on Netflix, and it gave me a bit to think about. The year of the court case seems like it was a really intense time to be in LA for sure. I was just a little kid when it was happening. I wonder how it compares to the recent Black Lives Matter movement. It’s hard to know how much of the show was accurate and how much of it they added for dramatic effect. There were a few scenes that I was like, NO WAY, and then I looked it up online and found out the editors had twisted the events to make them more dramatic. And, of course, Hollywood put its spin on it.
…all of that being said, one of the parts that stood out to me the most was the white cop who was in charge of the investigation, Fuhrman. He seemed like a horrible racist. That part rings true. And he kind of represents many bigoted cops out there. I know bigoted cops are real, because I know several. I am married into a family of cops, and some of the things they say and stories they’ve shared are pretty hideous. We all know that cops have gotten away with murder. So last night I just kept thinking, “Yeah, OJ probably did it, and got away with it,” and not that this makes it okay, but… “so that’s one black guy who got away with it versus… countless white guys.”
This morning I got on Facebook and saw that my husband’s Nino, (AKA god father and brother of my father-in-law), who happens to be a cop, was commenting on a post about Elliot Paige. I’ve seen in the past some of the comments he’s put up on Trump’s social media page, before it got taken down, and some of it has been so outrageous and disgusting to me; I’ve even taken screen shots because I didn’t think my husband would believe me. Anyway, he just said something anti-Trans about how Elliot Paige is a girl and then something else about Bruce Jenner, and reading that does make me feel washed over with some kind of emotion.
It’s just confusing and frustrating to have that kind of attitude in the family, and to feel so intimidated and overwhelmed by it. Like, I don’t feel like I’m in any position to say or do a damn thing about it. Even if I did, I wouldn’t even know how to start to do it in a way that would make any impact anyway. It’s a helpless feeling. I feel like all I can do is sit back, see it, know it’s not okay, and then keep on living my life. Worst of all, when I see these family members, I have to pretend not to feel all these things.
Well, I gotta go get ready for work now. Until next time <3
Last updated March 19, 2021