No really. What if you just stopped?
Many of you have probably opened this blog post for casual kicks and giggles…but it isn’t funny. It never has been. And I hope in the future, younger generations are more aware and conscious of racism and its effects.
Working within my communities and in customer service as a black woman comes with it’s challenges. I am exceptional in my positions and customers are often the highlight of my day; however, I would be lying to you if I did not tell you how cautious I am with each new human that enters my space. I know absolutely nothing about their pasts, their values, or their identities (and they, I) which is both simultaneously exciting and terrifying.
Recently, one of the most dreaded phrases from customers that I hear is “I don’t say this to offend you.” In fact, any variance of this phrase alone paralyzes me (psychologically and physically) and leaves absolutely no room for me to opt out for what is coming. Therefore, in one breathe, I am told that this stranger is going to do at least 2 of 3 things:
Say something that is Big Racist.
Say something that is Little Racist.
Remove my rights while subjecting me to further trauma.
I also would be lying to you if I didn’t say that all three occur most often together. As I stand, voiceless, I mentally brace myself for statements which belittle, dehumanize, or violate me, people who look like me, and our ancestors. I brace myself for the possibility that this stranger is either knowledgeable about this violence (which is why they had to preface it) or illiterate on how violent such acts are…because (to be honest) the Big Racist and Little Racist have about similar effects to me.
Now let’s briefly distinguish the Big and Little Racist.
Big Racist statements directly refer lynching, slavery, harmful slurs, senseless hate, physical violence, etc. Little Racist statements are also directly referring to those same things, yet are prefaced with “I’m not racist but…,” “I have a black friend, so…” and “I don’t say this to offend you…” Little Racist is just as bad as Big Racist; however, its producer doesn’t believe that they are racist, doesn’t think that the statement is racist, doesn’t think that I will take offense to the racist statement, and/ or speak racism as fact because at some point in their lived experience…it was just common sense.
Yes, it is exciting to meet new humans and talk about languages or trips or the weather. But it terrifying to encounter new humans who you know nothing about…primarily when you, yourself, are visibly “marginalized”. In the states, power is organized in a 21st century caste system which defines everyone who is not as white or man or heterosexual, etc. as being a part of the margins. I embrace my blackness, my womaness, and my uniqueness. But what I do not welcome is to be told (via Big or Little Racist) that I am inherently less than the preferred population within whichever colonial or archaic time period the US decides that it is in this week.
What I ask for may seem absurd to some and common sense to others. What I ask may seem fit for the 21st century. What I ask may be what most human believe that they deserve.
What I ask is to have my rights to my body and my space. What I ask is to be respected. Yes, I appear to fit into the margin but I ask that you understand that my existence transcends those margins. While you may celebrate and appreciate all things from blackness, I ask that you at least celebrate and appreciate those black individuals who created and live it. I ask that you view me as a new human, rather than pray or optional or detached from the historical trauma that my ancestors experienced. I ask that you ask me if you are allowed to be Big Racist, Little Racist, or inflect further trauma on my lived experience.
I ask that you just stop being racist.