Trigger warning: are you doing it?

PLEASE READ THIS BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT AND I WANT TO BE HEARD, NOT FOR MY STORY, BUT FOR PEOPLE WHO DEAL WITH THIS SHIT EVERY DAY (and stay with me, at the end I have a point that I believe needs to be understood):

I’ve had several conversations and confrontations with family (and others) about race. That is bound to happen when me, a white woman, has sex with a black man and gets pregnant at 19. When I was young and met a new boy, my dad would always ask, “Is he black?” This question always left me with a pit in my stomach. “Yes dad, he’s black.” When I met my now husband at 15 I told my dad about him. My dad asked his usual question and I answered in the usual way, but I followed up with, “But he reads and he’s in a bowling league.”

Just the other day in an environment surrounded by people who serve the oppressed and mentally ill, when it came up my husband was black, the next question was, “Ohhh….(awkward pause)…..what work does he do?” I got that same pit in my stomach. I told her what he did, and felt the urge to follow up with, “And he’s a supervisor,” but I stopped myself. Let me say this loud and fucking clear: I DO NOT NEED TO MAKE MY HUSBAND ANYTHING FOR YOU WHITE PEOPLE. He is the man I chose and choose and our love brought two amazing human beings in the world who have brown skin, and since their early years have been treated differently because of it. I learned early on that I can never ever know or fully understand their experience as biracial girls/women living in this world. This is a hard pill to swallow when as a mother you want to go through everything with them. In this instance, I cannot.

When I get into the conversations and confrontations about race and/or politics for that matter, they don’t go well. I get unfriended, unfollowed and was even told by one family member to go fuck myself and another, “no one likes you.” In none of these instances did a family member even consider what I am standing for- my family of color and not just my family- all families and people of color. To me, this makes no goddam sense. But, whatever. I have had enough confrontations to know that I no longer want to use my energy to argue with the ignorant who are steeped in their biases and prejudices.

But here is what I do want to confront and this is the actual point of this post: I am going to school to be a social worker. I’ve had many years of therapy, on and off, and especially lately there is a buzz word we mental health professionals use a lot and the word is TRIGGER. It’s an important concept and it is one I want people to me more thoughtful of.

When people are traumaitized, whether it is war, hurricanes, robbery, sexual assault, accidents or being of brown skin in this country and living with what is called historical trauma these traumatized people get triggered and it can be by anything, but especially anything that brings up the trauma. After my accident, loud sounds made me jump. I had flashbacks of being in the car. People can develop PTSD if these symptoms persist. Anyway, right now specifically, people of color are being triggered constantly and this is what is so bothersome to me right now.

When people post memes and messages that fits their narrative, that they think is funny but has an underlying message of racism, they are triggering people who don’t find it funny, that are living with historical trauma, and probably on top of very recent trauma. When our stupid president talks shit about NFL players taking a knee- that’s a trigger. When someone likes an ignorant post about players taking a knee that isn’t supportive of their cause, that is a trigger.

The insensitivity I have witnessed and witness at present is startling and heart wrenching. Many people do not seem to be sensitive or thoughtful enough to choose their words and messages and behaviors and even non-verbals with the idea in mind of others- how others feel- how others might experience the world. And, I can already here the grumbling. Sensitivity gets a bad wrap. Who has time, and these libtards and bleeding hearts should just get over it and stop taking everything so seriously. Well, just know that if you’re one of these people that thinks this way, in my opinion you fit in one of two places: you are either in so much pain due to your own trauma that you don’t think it’s safe to be sensitive or you’re just really comfortable and stay comfortable within the world you’ve created with people who look and think like you. Or maybe it’s a combo of both.

Whatever it is I am asking everyone, even those who are already super sensitive and thoughtful and I know who a lot of you are, to be even more thoughtful and sensitive. I am not suggesting we do the emotional work for others and became caretakers. But I am suggesting we really open ourselves beyond our narratives and comforts and biases and even what we find as funny and appropriate and consider our words, actions and behaviors first. We have become such a reactive and impulsive group of people and having a so called leader in the oval who is the most impulsive human I have ever witnessed doesn’t help to make us better. Unless of course we use this very disturbing moment we have with this man to become even more of a bleeding heart- to care even more about people, all people, to commit to never bully another human being or to say ignorant, divisive things. To never ask their child who dates a person of color, “Is he black?” This shit hurts and it’s time we all do our best to NOT CAUSE ANY MORE HARM.

The Soul Reporter via Facebook.

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The Denial of White Privilege

The first time I read the essay by Peggy McIntosh on white privilege in college I shook my head in agreement. Then, we discussed the essay in class. There were a few of my fellow white classmates agitated, if not enraged, by the notion that somehow they were privileged. One classmate told her story of the poverty she grew up in and had to fight for everything she had. Since reading this essay, the idea of white privilege has surfaced again. It’s even being used in some of the current political commentary. I notice the same agitation and downright denial from some white people that they are privileged.

Let’s be clear that in accepting or even just considering white privilege does not negate in any way what ever struggles any of us have faced. But let’s also be clear by not even considering the idea we are not listening to another person’s struggles and that’s a problem. Here are just a few of the areas in which Peggy McIntosh noticed where she is privileged just for being white:

  • *I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  • If I should move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing, in an area which I can afford and in which I want to live.
  • I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.
  • I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  • I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systematic racism for their own daily protection.*

There are 45 more of these conditions.

In order to accept or consider privilege means we must sacrifice beliefs and ideas we have about ourselves, society and the world. This idea of privilege, for those agitated by it, pushes against something they think is too precious to give up. What that is I cannot say for certain, but I do have a theory. Is it possible that for some people who reject the idea of their privilege— and let me just say that to defend you are not privileged is in fact a symptom of privilege—is it possible those people do not have room for anyone else to matter because they don’t feel they matter? It is possible some people feel so burdened and know how hard they’ve worked without any acknowledgment that they cannot stand to give space to someone else needing acknowledgment of their struggles?

Could they be saying in the face of privilege—why can’t they work hard? I have worked hard. I struggle and have worries why does theirs mean more than mine? Could they be crying and screaming deep down in their soul—I cannot give you space for your oppression because of the oppression I feel.

Deep down, and for some of us not so deep down, we all feel oppressed. We all feel as though we are struggling with no one to acknowledge our pain. Many of us don’t deal with our pain or feel our feelings. When we have all of this going on inside we may feel threatened if anyone dares suggest we are privileged in any way. However, the idea of white privilege at least as it is presented in the original essay has nothing to do with any of this. It has to do with as white people we don’t think about the color or our skin because as Chris Rock says, “If it’s white, it’s alright.” We weren’t brought here on slave ships. Our white ancestors chose to come here to make their lives better. As white people we have a sense of belonging and place that is given to us just because we are white. For me, that’s the point. For me, it takes nothing from the core of my being to accept I have privilege for being white and for me I’m willing to give it up. I would actually rather not have it because it kinda makes me sick. I am able to give space for another person’s experience even though I will never fully understand that experience. I knew when I had two children by a black man that there would be a part of their existence as black girls and women that I could never understand. That has been a difficult experience for me, but it is a truth I cannot deny and therefore accept and try to be as open as possible with what their experience is as black women.

My desire whenever I speak to someone who is resistant to white privilege is not that they accept it fully, but that they just consider it. When we consider anything we are being open to more than our own ideas we cling to because often those ideas we cling to the most are the very ideas that hold us back from our growth. My other desire is for people to make space and open to their own pain—to acknowledge the struggles they have faced and feel whatever feelings come from it, which is most often grief. Many of us need to grieve for the many losses and traumas that have happened to us. When we do not we not only abandon ourselves, but everyone around us. This is a time to come together, not to abandon each other.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

 

*The conditions listed come from the essay, White Privilege and Male Privilege by Peggy McIntosh listed in the Catherine Core Reader published by Saint Catherine University in 2014.