This is a repost from blackgirlnerds.com and it speaks such truth that I had t share it!
When I previously wrote about my marriage, I talked a bit about the white people who were suddenly in my personal space and how this caused an influx of microaggressions and coded language in my downtime that I hadn’t dealt with since college. I had white friends, but we didn’t talk about racism. I was brought up to be aware of white feelings however — to read them, understand them, and learn when shit was getting dangerous so that I could leave and live another day.
I was raised by parents who had children before the Civil Rights Act was passed. To be black and have children in this country was an act of ultimate hope then, a hope I do not share. Yet, my parents did it and they raised us to understand that we were here under white sufferance. We were taught to be still, be silent, and be the best. We were taught no matter how great we were, white people wouldn’t see us as such. Regardless of our accomplishments, they would always be “black achievements” valued less than white failure.
We were told that if we worked hard and got great grades, we’d access to education and jobs the people before them didn’t. What they really meant was that we’d have access to education and jobs valued by white people, because black people were doctors and had schools, education, and language that weren’t sanctioned by white people. During that time, unapproved meant worthless. My parents learned when black people built their own systems and tried to operate outside of whiteness, white people would come and destroy everything that like spoiled, angry children. To survive meant pretending to be less than what you are because white people had a history of destroying all competition.
And that’s what we did. We assimilated, adapted, and blended. And now, I look at all the black people I know, myself included, who have attained white-approved education and employment. The black people who learned how to put on a white-approved public face and played the game of “Keep White People Happy.” We slowly adopted and refined our own anti-blackness until it was “respectable” just like we needed to be. And now, I watch us struggle to come to terms with the reality that there is no level of respectability that will result in white approval. We learn the white friends we’ve known for decades quietly thought their black counterparts deserved being oppressed because they brought it on themselves. I watched friendships shatter into unrecognizable fragments and it breaks my heart every time.
My awakening was much of the same. Lying down next to a man who worshipped my mind, body, and the wholeness of me only to realize he didn’t believe my wholeness included my blackness. I fought the knowledge, covered myself in layers of denial, continued the relationship as it made incremental cuts along my self-worth until the bleeding and scarring pain became overwhelming. I called myself pushing back; I made us have conversations that addressed my humanity and confronted his prejudices. I told myself I was being patient. Loving. Open-minded. Until I understood I became a masochist.
My significant other’s (S.O.’s) friends are problematic. I suffered them for much longer than I wanted. There were multiple discussions revealing their questionable morality. At the time, the Occupy Wall Street movement was happening and there was trash talk about the movement. There was talk about drug testing welfare recipients. There was talk about defrauding people who didn’t realize the worth of their items. There was smugness, arrogance, and a level of self-importance and selfishness that was anathema to me. I was always the only brown person in the room and even the areas where we met up were devoid of POCs. Everything about it was unpleasant, yet I endured.
His family are mostly mild-mannered people who accept me as long as I never challenge them. The first time I met them, his mother could not remember my name and repeatedly called me one so dissimilar, I didn’t realize she was speaking to me at all. His father referred to my friends as a “gang” and could not connect the dots on how fucked up that was despite me repeatedly saying, “I don’t have a gang. Do you mean my friends?” He then responded, “No, your gang.” My S.O.’s embarrassment was enough for me to put it aside.
Over time, they became more comfortable with me and their questions became more intrusive, while the comments were more direct: “What plantations would be good to tour on?” or “Your child would be beautiful, ‘cause of the skin.”
Every time I confronted it, they would become confused by my response, explain they didn’t mean anything by it and immediately end the conversation. There were no teachable moments because the talks ended so quickly, I had no time to respond. Eventually I told my S.O. he needed to handle this with his family because if I did it, there wasn’t going to be a relationship anymore. And still I stayed. And I loved. And I hated. And I hurt.
The termination of my relationship with his parents came this year, approximately one week ago.
This part of the story isn’t unique. After recovering from the shock of having my mother-in-law support someone’s claims regarding the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile saying we needed to know more information and remain patient for evidence in the murder of two unarmed black men, I lost it. I fucking lost my shit. That this woman would have the audacity to support this, to devalue these men’s lives at the hands of government thugs was so disgusting. I was done. I wouldn’t pretend his parents’ racism didn’t exist and it didn’t affect me. He couldn’t protect me from them so I decided to protect myself. The fallout hasn’t truly happened yet and I’m fairly positive they will pretend everything’s ok, but it’s not. Something is truly wrong with them, and I don’t have room in my personal life for that type of foulness anymore.
I don’t know what this means for my S.O. and I. He knows I meant what I said about them not being welcome in my home anymore; I won’t go to their home either. Holidays will be interesting as I will not ask him to choose between us. They are his parents and as such, occupy a unique place in his life. It’s just a place I will not try to occupy with him.
And still I stay. And still I love. And still I hate. And still I hurt. But now, I heal.
Racism has always been a part of my life. Learning to numb myself to its little indignities has been the status quo. Speaking out against it, pushing back, is met with swift and severe punishment. But now when that punishment happens, we have opportunities to share our narrative, to get our stories out there. We aren’t relying on the complicity and approval of white people to move forward – not like before. Your aid, while appreciated, is not required. We are here and you see us – with that visibility comes a difficulty to exploit us.
As horrible as all of this is, this is part of the future my parents pushed me towards. Like a sleeper agent, I shake off the programming which allowed me to blend in and now I am fighting to be who I was meant to be. I am an agent of influence. Agent of chaos. Agent of change.
Change is here. The old regime is slowly crumbling, making way for new powers, new voices, new systems. We are in transition and it will get bloody, but change is here.
Which side of history will you be on?
About the Writwr of this article: TaLynn Kel is a writer, advocate, womanist, cosplay artist, creator, communicator, and public health geek. You can find her writing on her website at http://www.talynnkel.com, and she also occasionally writes for The Establishment and Anime Complexium.