Women of Color have experiences that are unlike any other. The ignorance is sometimes in-explainable and beyond hurtful. I remember hearing these backhanded compliments way back when I was as young as 6 years old; however, I know I do not go through this alone. I grew up in white neighborhoods and naively thought this behavior was simply normal for someone like me. I got into high school and became friends and acquaintances with people who honestly didn't respect me. I was a commodity friend to them. The token "black" friend. I then started to realize that this treatment wasn't right. I got into college and made new friends, friends who understood and respected my struggles, but my transition from high school to college made me realize that despite the black presidency; racism...prejudice...discrimination...sexism...bigotry...were ALL still alive.
I believe that as a society we dropped the ball on combating this hatred. I am at fault for this as well. My parents are at fault. My POC friends are at fault. Every POC in America who believed that since we had a black president things would get better is at fault. We should have read between the lines. We should have argued back at every unintelligent comment "Obama only won because he's black" or "You only voted for Obama because he is black." No, honey, last time he was president our country wasn't so divided. That is what we should have argued. But we stayed silent.
I lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. I lacked confidence to stand up for my black father. I lacked confidence to stand up for all the black and brown boys and girls of America. I lacked the confidence to tell those kids in the parking lot that their confederate flags meant they were AGAINST America and supported the South's decision to succeed from the United States on the basis of wanting SLAVERY to continue. I lacked the confidence to tell my friends not to say the N word and instead I joked along. I lacked the confidence to tell those boys that women of color ARE pretty. No matter the skin tone. I simply lacked confidence as a woman of color, and I let myself become abused. In the end, I was brainwashed.
Today is different.
Today, I might be considered a bitch, but I am not an abused bitch.
Today, I speak for myself and every other woman of color when I say, that your cultural appropriation is NOT okay.
Today, I speak for myself and all when I say being to "PC" is not always a bad thing.
Today, in order to survive with my sanity intact, I must fight back.
You might be reading this and wondering, well what did she endure that could ever be so bad? I'm here to tell you, that if you're truly asking yourself that question, then you are part of the problem.
Here are some examples of real-life experiences of mine (and maybe these examples can show to some people exactly what it is that they're doing wrong):
A condescending individual who doesn't have any concept of mixed ethnicity, "Are you like... black?"
Me, an educated yet easily annoyed individual, "Why do you ask?...Is being black a problem?"
"No...I...I just...what race are you?"
"My parents are Puerto Rican...but both of them have mixed backgrounds."
"Wow! You don't sound spanish..."
"Do you speak it?"
Boys responses to seeing a pretty girl who ISN'T white, "Damn, you're pretty for an Indian girl..."
Me, astounded by this particular boy's ignorance and stupidity, "Cool, thanks..."
"You're the darkest girl I would ever date" or "You're pretty for a black girl!"
Me, suddenly disassociated from human existence, "No thanks...you can put that backhanded compliment back where it came from."
Well-meaning comments from women and girls that have mean-spirited underlying connotations, "You must hate having thick hair..." or "Wow, your hair can get so big!"
....and, "How come you don't straighten your hair?"
*Smiles kindly until they leave me TF alone*
Finally, but certainly not the least hurtful of them all is when my "friends" or acquaintances feel the need to express to me that they would "never date a person of color."
But...I'm okay...right? You can have me around as a friend but anything more would be too much for you. Okay, I understand.
This comment is perhaps the worst. It means that the prejudice is ingrained so deep that they simply cannot see that they're adding to the bigotry. It is unfortunate. However, to minimize the pain sustained from these many interactions I have learned to simply keep these people out of my life. It is healthier, less toxic, and I found it helps me sleep better at night.
WOC need friends who understand what being a POC truly means. It has depth to it that would take hours of venting to explain; even now, writing this has taken a few good hours simply because I had so many thoughts, experiences, and opinions to explain. WOC need good listeners. We need people who are willing to change their hurtful rhetoric into language that benefits the human condition for all.
"Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough, but not baked in the same oven."
This Yiddish Proverb certainly got it right, so why can't we?