I built a narrative about my mother my whole life – a loving, caring, devoted mom; denying emotional neglect and toxicity until I was ready to tear down the story I created in order to survive my childhood, and see reality for what it was.
That is why I have compassion for non-colored people who are trying to break down an old system that fails black and brown people. Don’t get me wrong. I am as angry as anyone else about race relations in this country, being dark and Latina myself. And I understand what it is to carry a narrative built in childhood that gives us a false sense of safety, and how scary it is to deconstruct it.
Imagine the defenses the ego will go through trying to break down the narrative that carries a racist perspective the eye cannot see!
I believe we can help to break down barriers by sharing more with each other. We need to acknowledge the stories of the oppressed, abused, poor and suffering. Sometimes, all it takes is listening. Sometimes, it takes the courage to share your own story.
Let me offer a story from my life as a Latina:
From the time I could remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I played teacher with the neighborhood kids in my garage. I still love teaching and recently retired from teaching coach certification programs. Yet, I missed out on years of teaching in my youth. I was literally discouraged from going to college by a white, male counselor who figured a Latina girl attending summer school for Algebra should, instead, go to vocational school and learn to become a secretary. I wanted to become a teacher with a passion but he convinced me I’d never make it. My parents spoke limited English and thought the school was the authority. True story. (I went to college later in life. On scholarships and graduating with honors, while raising a family.)
But his prejudice cost me years of unsatisfying work, and the opportunity to make a difference in my life and my family’s as an educated young woman. I can’t begin to tell you what that cost me mentally, emotionally and spiritually for years. Some days I am exhausted from all the energy expended to be a successful person, carrying the weight of being female, of being Latina. I’m pretty sure it’s why I took an early retirement. Sshh! Don’t tell my current clients that.
No matter how racist non-coloreds think they are not, it doesn’t mean they get it. And that’s fair because what happens to us doesn’t happen to them. Neither do they get to abuse their power!!
So it’s up to those of us who have audience with non-coloreds to share our experiences. Let them know what it’s like to be you. Then ask,
“Where did you first learn to be afraid of black/brown people?”
and listen with open curiosity because they may be remembering for the first time. Guess what? No one has ever asked them that before!
I present that question to all of you because we tend to internalize racism, unaware that we have bought into the program – white, black, brown, everyone – in some way. It takes the entire system to buy in in order for it to become systemic. STOP BUYING IN and ask yourselves, “What can I do to make things better? Can I lead with more awareness of my prejudices? Am I willing to look at how I’ve bought into this system that doesn’t work for us all?”
Share a little. Listen A LOT. Find common ground. Share some more.
And everyone deserves kindness.