“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out,
because taking a firm stand on anything opens us up to criticism.”
(line one quoted by Mahatma Gandhi, line two quoted by Lindy West)
The color of my skin is what many consider white. I can easily pass for white. I am technically and lawfully white.
I have had privileges set upon me and I have accepted and embraced them as they benefitted the circumstances.
However my history has had a few racial and discrimination collisions…
Up until 7th grade I lived in an all white community with one black family. I remember seeing the child of that family who was younger than me and being curious. I wanted to talk to him but he was never anywhere that I could have spoken to him. I do remember all the negative comments and slurs directed at the family from our community. Also at this time, in this very small town we literally had Gypsies come to stay in our fairgrounds every year. They arrived in vardo’s and various tiny homes on wheels. I remember people standing in their yards when they went down our main street to reach their destination and whispering among themselves and grabbing their children. I also remember sitting in front on our television at six pm and watching the news announcing the curfew during this time. “Make sure all your children are in by dark.” Apparently when the Gypsies left town, children were known to go missing. This was my community.
In 7th grade my mom moved my sister and I to another city. The middle school was very diverse and a shock. I was bullied on a daily basis. I was pushed and shoved, tripped, threatened, punched, hair yanked and stolen from. Shockingly, it wasn’t because I was white. It was because the students there genuinely believed that I was black and if not fully, then of mixed race. What? I knew I tanned really dark in the summer but I just didn’t understand. I came home crying everyday. Even my step-father refused to put up my yearly school photo because he claimed that I looked like a “put N word here” (A word that I have never said and I will never say.) Now, let’s add on another discrimination here, that can and does include all colors of skin. Weight. While here it was also the first time I tried dieting. I didn’t eat anything for 3 days trying to lose weight. I was so weak that I could barely stand. Looking back now I was so thin it seems ridiculous that I thought that I was over-weight. After months of my situation, my mother moved us back to the city where I was raised.
A year later my mother then moved us to the next state over, which was just across a bridge. I was in eighth grade and from one single night to the next I was in a new state, new school and new environment. I never got to go back to gather my belongings or say goodbye to my friends. I just never went back. Gone was the all white community and placed yet again in a very diverse system. Yes, there were blacks but this time the disclination came from class. You were from Upper, Middle or Lower class and you stayed there and never spoke to those of a different financial group. Except me. I refused to do it. I would spend my recess with the lower talking to a smoking classmate. Yes, in eighth and ninth grade the students smoked outside the school. I was offered and respected when I declined. I wasn’t teased. I shared conversations in class with the Uppers and hung out and walked home with the Middle. At one point my cousin, a year younger came to me and said we couldn’t be seen together at school because she was of Upper class and I was poor. When in fact, my mother had us move in with my aunt and my cousin because they couldn’t pay the bills. I was so shocked and hurt and in disbelief that the person I shared a room with would treat me this way.
Another discrimination awareness in my teenage years is becoming enlightened from a short conversation with my mother. We were walking home from town one evening and we were holding pinkies. Mom told me that she and her best friend held hands while they walked as well. Yet when approached they were always asked if they were gay. Mom said that you can have such a close relationship with another female to be comfortable holding hands that does not involve any type of sexuality. It was just love and trust for another person. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it. And there was nothing wrong with it even if you were. She had plenty of gay friends. I had really never thought of it before the point was made and I have never made it an issue since.
But mom didn’t feel that way when I fell in love at 16 and got engaged to at 17 to a black man. We set the town on fire with audacity. We became the first inter-racial couple to openly display our union. We were going to marry and I was going to start an Inter-Racial magazine to show the world that we are equal. We walked the downtown streets and were whispered about. The school approached my mother and told her this had to stop. I was offered, literally Upper class white males to date. (that is so insane) My mother decided to have a conversation with another black man in our corner grocery store and explain why he was so pale and why my fiancé was so dark. I so wish I had been there when she found out the man she asked just so happen to be the brother of my fiancé. She then sent me to Florida to my Grandparents. They offered, a car, an apartment and a full college education if I would just leave him. They even delved into biblical reference. I refused all. My mother got desperate. She was not going to have her daughter marry a black man. She packed up all of our stuff in a van and moved 1600 miles away to Florida. I had 9 months till my 18th birthday and I could go back. I didn’t go back. It worked in her favor. I just couldn’t leave my family. I bawled on the phone on my birthday and broke it off with my fiancé. Then turned around and dated a 100% Chinese man.
Time and years go by, and I’m in my 40’s. I am in a new state with a new job and I am bullied yet again. This time with grown women who should know better. But I wasn’t them. I didn’t understand yet again why they persisted with their antics, until a new employee asked if I needed a ride home because it was raining and I walked to and from work everyday. She plainly told me they didn’t like me because I wasn’t of their race. Except for the manager, I was the only employee of “white” skin. No, they were not black either. The new employee that took me home was their race. I never even considered this. It never occurred to me. I was so shocked. I thought in all this time that we had made progress.
A couple of years ago I treated myself to a DNA test. I wanted the exact percentage of my Native American ancestors. Because I grew up with the knowledge of being Native American. First being told Cherokee, only after many conversations to realize it was Shawnee. I joined FNAIS, in my early 30’s which is the Florida Native American Indian Society. Given a Native name, become a council member and was very active in ceremonies and pow wow’s. My heart and soul is Native American. But my DNA test revealed there isn’t an ounce of it in my blood. I was never so disappointed in my life. I have lived a lie. My family didn’t believe it. So I took another DNA test with another company and it came back with the same results and my family still didn’t believe it. Then the only male left living with our last name from my generation took his DNA test and it basically matched mine. My aunt firmly denies it all. To her we are Native American and the sources don’t have the genetic make-up from the Natives to make a DNA test accurate. I ended my association with FNAIS years ago, well before I took my DNA test. I was called upon another path, but I will always advocate with the Indigenous people of America. I believe this is where my understanding of racial and discrimination comes from. A life time of being aware.
Once more I am taken down a discriminatory path. This time it is religion. If anyone is not Christian then you are evil. I started at 6 years old wanting to go to church. Mom said that there was plenty of buses that go by our trailer on Sunday, go get on one. So the next Sunday, I got all dressed up, went out and stood on the corner. Mom watched from the window. (yep, I was 6!) The third bus was a pretty, light blue bus and they stopped and I got on. When I came home Mom was waiting at the bus stop. She asked me where do I go to church now and for the next 4 years I went to a strict Baptist church. I attended the Jr Course first then always took the front row pew in the adult service. I just didn’t want to go with the kids to the next class for us. I went every year to Bible Camp. I wanted to be a camp counselor. I learned that bible. I was great at bible drills and memorization. Then one day when I was 10 and the Jr class counselor said that tarot cards are evil and anyone who deals with them are evil was my last day to ever attend church. See, I regularly went with my mom to get her cards read. That lady and my mom were not evil and anyone who said so were not ok in my ten year old little head. Besides how many times do we have to go over the same book? It didn’t stop my curiosity though. My aunt was a Jehovah’s Witness. As a child I went to the Hall, I went knocking door to door with my aunt and cousin. I grew up around them. My aunt and cousin were in and out of their religion when it suited them. I studied for a while as an adult and even married a witness, whom 5 years later divorced. With different friends over the years I went to Catholic, Protestant and Episcopal, witnessed speaking in tongues, watched an arena get “healed” and for 15 years actively attend “moon ceremonies” from the Native American culture. All this time, while I was searching for meaning, of what to believe I always reverted to nature to find peace and harmony. I hugged the trees, spoke to the birds, watched for signs of rain and looked for the natural way to counter health issues. I am angry at all the butts on the ground, trash thrown around and total disrespect of the land we walk on. The path was always there and I had not recognized it. I was diverted from it. I am Pagan. Specifically Eclectic. Which is defined at choosing your own path, selecting what best suits you. I wear a 7-pointed star. It is my symbol for my beliefs. It means everything to me. I have been handed bibles and told that I need to read it. I have been approached so many times and asked if I believe in god, been invited to their church and blasphemed and told I was going to hell. People have come up to me and laid hands on me to heal me from my evil ways. My family all believe in god and they don’t understand why I choose this direction. I make them uncomfortable. I feel if they feel uncomfortable then they have their own issues with their personal beliefs. I don’t. Not anymore.
With exception to these few incidences I have led a pretty charmed life. A privileged, white life.
Now in my 50’s I know who I am. Or I thought I did.
I SINCERELY APOLOGIZE.
I admit my ignorance. I will not deny my ignorance. Having said, “I am not prejudice,” “I don’t see color,” and “It’s what’s in your heart that matters,” are sayings for sitting on the fence and a blatant disregard and disrespect of those of color. I have straddled that fence for years. I was never informed I was wrong. No one whom I had said it to explained it to me. But I never asked either. I didn’t think to ask, which is white privilege. Too long. I love a confrontation. But I realize the confrontations that I enjoy are controlled by me. Politics and religion are confrontations that make me uncomfortable and I can’t control it. It’s from ignorance that I have not wanted to educate myself on. I have been scared. I am still scared but I have to get over it.
“If we do nothing, nothing will change.”
(quote from man in the Australian “brown eyes, blue eyes” group led by activist Jane Elliot)
I have not watched in it’s entirety the George Floyd video. I got to his first, “I can’t breath” and quit. Bawled and just can’t right now. I quickly pass it in my feed. I have seen so many post, signs, videos, tears, protest, looting and unjustified behavior from law enforcement that I can’t help but feel. I am an emotional mess.
I remembered a video on YouTube that I saw years ago about a teacher who divided her elementary class by eye color and I never forgot it. So I went searching. It was extremely easy. I found Jane Elliot. So I have spent my time since the death of Mr. Floyd educating myself. I have watched videos of talks, speeches and histories of racism. I have requested books from my library from all those videos and post that stated we need to read these books. The library is a free source to gain knowledge, use it. I still have a lot of life left in me and I will continue to educate myself and grow.
I have shed so many tears this past week at the injustices of skin color from around the world. I knew they were out there. I chose to ignore it with my white privilege. Black Lives Matter. Always. They don’t get to set it aside and I don’t want to live in ignorance and compliance any longer.
Not to diminish the current situation, racism is more that black vs white, white vs native, it is white vs everyone… We just must put a stop to racism all-together. Color, political, religious and financial. It has to end.
If I stop feeling then I have stopped caring. Everyone need to start caring and stop being numb to the situation.
One Race. HUMAN.
this is my voice, speaking LOUDLY
Below is some books to read. A map to replace the one generated to show white superiority. It’s called the Peter’s Projection map, let’s get it in the schools and change the curriculums.
Thank your for your time and patience in reading my blog.