being brown is such a huge part of my identity; it influences the way i interact with other people, the way i approach learning, the way i view myself, my self-esteem, my self-worth, my relationships, my goals, my dreams, my humor, my character, my capacity for resilience, and my capacity for love.
but when i’m friends with a white person or when i date a white person i feel pressured to close off that part of myself. when i’m with white folks i lack substance. i become small. i become quiet. i get pissed off.
the legacy of slavery, the roots of racism, the inequality in this country’s very structure - these things aren’t theoretical abstract concepts. they don’t stay in the classrooms. i don’t stop thinking about these things when I leave socio 101. and when i meet a white person i can put a face to these concepts, to my oppression, i can attach a face to the years of self-hate i endured as a curly headed brown girl growing up in the South. white people make me angry. even the nice ones. my cousins, my family. i feel so robbed of my agency. i feel so powerless against whiteness. i don’t want to be the angry black girl but i really don’t have a choice.
This is why I cannot stand behind gay marriage or behind the queer community as a whole. Ask yourselves if you want to be part of a community that prioritizes marriage over the rights and protection of the poor, the black & brown, and the disenfranchised. The gay community needs to step it up or get out of my face.
I honestly don’t know what mental hoops you have to jump through in order to get to a place where having light skin somehow means being white, but a lot of you all seem to confuse the two. There are ways to acknowledge that lighter skin usually garners a different reaction than darker skin, and that being closer to the ideal (white) has privileges and advantages without erasing the fact that a light skinned person black person is still black. I’m not going to feed into an Us. vs. Them scenario, where light skin is pitted against dark skin. And fuck you if that’s your plan.
Being told that I’m not black enough by black people is so fucking hurtful. There just aren’t words. I’m not your enemy, so please stop trying to erase my identity in the name of racial justice.
Ever seen one of those black and white cookies? They’re half dark chocolate and half vanilla: divided right up the middle. If you ever want to know what it’s like to grow up as a mixed kid in the South born to a white family, just buy one of those cookies. Bonus: it’ll help to remind you how fragmented racial relations in this country really are after you take away all that post-racial, “homophobia is actually the new racism” bullshit. Those fucking cookies are my life in dessert form, that’s for sure. I’ve spent nineteen years trying to combine my two halves. Every day I struggle with bringing together my identity. Every single day is a struggle in understanding my past. Every day, I’m more confused and frustrated than I was the day before. I’m divided right up the middle. I always have been, and I’m afraid that I always will be.
To be mixed in American can and usually does translate into living a fragmented life, a life defined by the inability to define yourself to anyone. I get tinges of anxiety every time someone asks me about my ethnicity.
“What are you?”
I wish I could answer without second-guessing myself.
I want to say: I’m brown. I’m black. I’m white. I’m all of these but also none of these. Those darker than me have suffered under my exertions of privilege while I have suffered under those whiter than me. I stand behind the black community, but I‘m afraid I’ll never be able to stand with them. I hate Whiteness while I benefit from it, and no social justice blogger or feminist or liberal can explain to me why I feel so guilty all the time.
Instead, I just say, “I’m mixed, but you can call me black.”
At least now I can show them the cookies.
I recently had a discussion with a brown friend of mine, and we were discussing the dissonance required when dealing with sexist, homophobic, or racist family members. We both have no shortage of those in our family. Usually, because the universe loves fucking with us, our closest loved ones are usually the ones who are the most… well, ignorant, to say the least. We also discussed a lot of the rhetoric used in social justice world and the anger and hatred that so many activists feel towards our more discriminatory family members. Both she and I are non-straight, non-white women. I’m from the Southern United States, and she is from a different country, far away from mine (I’m leaving her place of birth out of this, just in case someone she knows reads this) Regardless, we’re both minorities in this world. We’ve both been angry so many times at Whiteness, at patriarchy, at straight privilege. Yes, I’m sure she has felt hatred toward her oppressors and her fellow minorities who hold oppressive views. Fuck, I know I have. I’ve hated so many people and organizations and political parties, and I apologized for my hatred just as much as they apologized for theirs. Hint: they didn’t.
Still, as my friend and I talked about our respective family members, I couldn’t help but feel her pain at being involved in a type of social justice fueled by anger and hatred. This hatred and anger is inadvertently being directed towards the people she loves, people who are just as much victims as they are perpetrators. I feel torn every day by having a family whose beliefs run counter to my fucking existence, but they are my family. I feel like such a bad womanist or social activist or decent human being because I can’t hold on to this anger anymore. I don’t like being pitted against men of color, other women, my family and my friends, but I feel like a lot of my social justice circles expect me to be able to do look injustice right in its ugly face and fight it; how am I supposed to do that when the face belongs to my mother, my father, my sister, my best friend? I just wish more people, feminists, equalists, womanists, etc. tried to remember the kind of emotional strength it takes to exist this way, and why so many break off from these circles. I know that, personally, I’m just not strong enough for it. It doesn’t mean we’re crying for the plights of white men everywhere, and it doesn’t mean we accept sexism and other isms in our lives. It just means that some of us can’t handle being apart of your revolution. I have to let go of my hatred because it’s poisoning my relationships with my family and my friends, and it’s poisoning me. My anger needs to evolve into a desire to educate and listen, something I feel is lacking right now in my social activist neck of the woods.
And before I get anon hate, let me say that the anger and hatred you feel as a minority is understandable, and I’m not here to dictate to anyone how to survive in this world as a member of the LGBTQA community, as a woman, or as a person of color. This is just my own personal revelation.
I’ve encountered a lot of people on tumblr (and in real life, as well) who’ve told me and other people: “If you believe in equal rights for men and women, then you’re a feminist. Period.” This is meant to end all other discussion and dissent because dissent means you disagree with equality. If you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, at best, you’re brainwashed. At worst, you’re a misogynistic woman hater, but regardless of why you choose to refrain from embracing the term, you’re in the wrong. And that’s all there is to it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do understand that a lot of people who reject feminism are being mislead by false ideas of what feminism is supposed to be. People are afraid to stand up for feminism because of the ridiculous connotations that mainstream society has attached to it, and I don’t disagree for a second that these people are wrong. It’s never okay to reject something completely without taking the time to try to understand it. For a lot of us, though, feminism is not the beautiful movement so many white, middle-class feminists would like us to believe. For me, feminism is a double-edged sword which promotes exclusion in the name of ~unity and ~sisterhood, and I’m not wrong for having mixed feelings about the feminist label nor am I wrong for feeling completely out of place in most feminist circles. I’m not anti-woman because I’m anti-bullshit, and I’m definitely not brainwashed for looking at the feminist movement, as a whole, and seeing and hearing so few women who think like me or look like me. Many of us have valid reasons for turning away from feminism; so maybe you should acknowledge how fucked up feminism can be before you try to force it on me as a way to end all oppression. I don’t have to take your label to fight for equality on my own terms.