...but i'm not in the mood to talk about how america is failing ferguson--and itself--right now
Last night I had a fit of anger that may or may not have had something to do with my rising discomfort as I watch American race relations crumble and I begin to question the way my peers of all races look at and use me. I wrote an angry, angry, letter to America. My poor MacBook Air was probably shaking with fear as I approached it this morning, worried that its keys were about to absorb another loud assault from my fingers.
I haven't yet decided if I'm going to post the letter, but in the meantime I've found someone else's blog post that begins to describe my level of discomfort. Bear with me while I have these moments this week. I was raised by people who could be the grandparents of most of my friends. In general I've had a much different perspective on moving through my own country while considered a minority--a word that always triggers an accusation of "less than" in my mind.
“I get along with white people really well. Growing up, they brought peppermint bark down the cul-de-sac to my parents’ house every Christmas. They smiled at me, lone brown spot in the classroom, as we read Dr. King’s speech every February. In my graduate writing program, white classmates complimented my afro with liberal fingers, applauded my poems for their sass and bravado, asked me to explain references in Harryette Mullen’s work while we were out for drinks. They’re my white friends, and I’m their black friend. White people love me. It’s kind of my thing.
I have never given a performance to an all-black audience.
For weeks she asks from the chair across from mine, can you describe that loneliness? My therapist is a young, thin white woman who isn’t following the protests in Ferguson. What does that loneliness feel like? I kind of sink into the chair as a performance and flip my wrist. It feels regular and a little glamorously sad. She says can you think of the first time you felt that. I say generations ago. She says we have to stop. I notice my mask slipping. I put it back on before walking out to 5th avenue, weeping quietly in front of The Gap.
Having grown up in the ‘90’s heyday of “I don’t see color” and hearing the budding subconscious white supremacy in statements like “You don’t act black,” the playground was where I first learned about acceptance, and its price. Where I learned to make myself small, nod graciously in thanks for approval. The playground is where I learned who makes the rules. Where I learned that my identity is not up to me.”
— Morgan Parker, "Reports From the Field: White People Love Me: Dispatches From The Token", on vidaweb.org
Personally, I haven't and don't buy into the last sentence quoted up there, but I've known plenty of people who have. One of the advantages to having been raised with a bit of haughtiness is that I have always loved trying on bits and pieces of new identities, then keeping what seems to bring out the best in me and discarding what doesn't. A slideshow of the many metamorphoses of my hair from age 14 to 35 might provide a great visual example. You won't see such a slideshow as 14 - 19 were a little rough--though it was from those years that I gained a love for showing up at a formal event once in a while with crimson-colored extensions in my hair. I've always been aware that there are people out there who see my skin color and decide to assume they know me, but those people never mattered to me. Maybe that's why I have such a small--but very tight--circle of actual friends. I've curated my friendships over many years.
Anyhow, this is an essay you'll want to finish reading. Check out the remainder here.