Denial (August 2013)
Updated: Sep 22, 2018
I feel a little scared and I don't know where to start.
I suppose I can start with a conversation I had last week. An African American woman was experiencing subtle racism at work. It took her several months to acknowledge it. Once she did, she began to notice more and more. Then the Trayvon Martin verdict came out. Then several other news stories. She was able to talk to a friend about it. Eventually her husband, who initially told her to just pray for strength, began to notice the vastness, the reality, the pinching pain of it. As we were discussing it, I acknowledged that it's much easier for people to stay in denial that racism still exists, because it's so ugly, and we think that as a country we should be beyond it. Haven't we overcome yet?
This concept of the denial has been sticking with me, haunting me, tugging at my conscience in a way that demands more observation. I've been writing in my personal journal about these feelings but I'd like to explore it more publicly and start a dialogue.
Race, racism, prejudice... they are not comfortable topics. People don't want to talk about that. But I can't avoid it. I'm mixed race, and because of my experience I think about race all the time. I'm observing, trying to assess, make meaning... Will you understand me? Are you safe? Are you thinking about it, too?
Most of the time I'm thinking about these things on a very subtle level. However, in light of some recent events in my life, my more focused attention is required. In particular, there was this article floating around, I can't remember if it was local or national, about how like 40% of people don't socialize outside of their race. The other thing was I saw Fruitvale Station last night. And because I already knew it was available, I watched the actual footage online a few times. Traumatized myself before I knew what was happening. These things awakened some of those subtle observations and brought questions to the surface.
Being mixed race, I have acknowledged my privilege to the extent that I was aware at the time. But now I'm further along and it's time to push the envelope. I want to explore more. I want to understand these denials and rationalizations that I have used to push the reality of racism outside of the scope of my life. So that I could be more comfortable. So I could pretend things really weren't so bad. I'm not sure exactly what happened or when but I'm beginning to feel the air around me changing, I feel like the America of my experience is experiencing a challenge to denial. And I'm listening. I want to react, examine, change, progress.
So that's what I want to do here, over the course of a few posts. I want to examine my own denial as it bumps up against new information. I want to challenge my own carefully created borders that have allowed me to believe that racism is not a part of the world I live in. Because there must have been some other explanation for these injustices. Right?
I don't think I can believe that anymore.