When people talk about their pets, one of the first things they mention is the color. There are all kinds of elaborate and non-judgment inducing names for the colors of pets: tabby, smoke, calico, brindle, fawn, grizzle, merele, chinchilla, tortie, and of course any combination of the above.
It doesn’t stop there: in addition to the basic black, white, and brown that people come in, cats and dogs also come in blue, orange, lilac, pewter, apricot, cinnamon, chocolate and golden. It’s really quite a lively range of descriptors. People unapologetically choose their pets by their colors. “I really want a black lab.” We’ve all heard it.
We’re not as comfortable when it comes to people. A popular complaint about identifying people of color is this, “I don’t know what to call them. They keep changing what they want to be called, and if the I say the wrong thing, I’m going to offend someone, and I’ll be called a racist.” In an effort to curb this fear and potential offense people often modify racial descriptors with flattering adjectives to soften the blow of identifying race in the first place. People fear that pointing out race makes them racist. They forget to consider that it is their intention in pointing out the race that matters.
My gallerist did this just the other day. He said, “My daughter is getting a place with…(pause) one of her nicest, (pause) African American friends.” I’m sure he didn’t mention his daughter’s roommate’s race to everyone. He made a point of telling me this because I, like the roommate, am black. To cover up for the obvious “connecting two black people is fun” game, he added how nice this roommate is, as if this was the most important part of his sentence.
Alternatively people will insert the phrase “who just happens to be” in front of the racial identifier: “My daughter is moving in with a really nice woman who just happens to be African American.” This strikes me as odd. Did the roommate accidentally turn black? Now that’s a story. Tell me about that. How did they “just happen” to be this race?
Why is it that we describe pet colors and breeds so easily but when we talk about people we stumble, stutter, and prepare for battle? Is it because dogs never fought for their rights in our society? Is it because cats never asked to be called one thing or another? Is it because we choose their descriptors for them, and they have no say at all in the labels we assign them?
If you apply a biological approach, the color of pets and the race of people is pretty much determined by the same mechanism: genetics. So what makes race such a drastically different and difficult conversation among humans? We have to admit, finally, that race is not just a matter of genetics, it includes our historical interactions.
Facing a person’s race means facing the history you have with them and their group, not just facing a difference in “skin color” as people often try to oversimplify it. We carry our collective history with us everywhere, and the first reminder of that is our skin. It is our discomfort with and denial of our history that tensions around race invariably arises.
I love your lips and your nose. I love them. I think you're fucking gorgeous in every way. And girls feeling the need to lose weight is a shameful, disgusting thing, a byproduct of our fucked-up, male-dominated society, that is designed specifically to keep women down, to keep them worrying about how they appear to males in order that males continue to dominate them. It makes me want to fucking smash the whole goddamn thing to pieces and then set it on fire so it never comes back.
I don’t even know what to say D:
Thank you so much for your kind words… :)
I’m guessing you know me? Haha, since you know what my lips and nose look like. Thank you for everything you said, truly, whoever you are. It’s one thing to tell yourself that and another to have it reaffirmed by someone…especially when you’re having a really shitty day.
This is a long response, lulululz, but really, this means a lot to me right now. Thank you. WHOEVER YOU ARRREEEEEE AHHHHHH!!
I try not to post really personal things or rants or things of that nature. But if I’m holding true to what I intended for this blog, “doing it big”, in 2012, that means in every aspect.
Even the really shitty times. So here goes.
I’m pretty sure I just had a panic attack before I left the house for work. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t walk or breathe. I haven’t felt this hopeless in a long time. Hopeless and frustrated.
I mean, nothing happened in particular to set me off. I had to go get my tires aligned before heading into work.
for the past two months now, I’ve been trying to deal with a lot of anger and resentment that I’ve allowed to build up for years and years and now I think it’s finally reached a boiling point. I can’t take it anymore. I literally shake from all the anger that I feel like CONSUMES me.
You know, when I was younger, like 7 or so, I used to watch PBS all the time. I only got antenna in my room, so I watched their documentaries and Arthur and what not. When they used to show documentaries about Jim Crow and the plight of black people, I used to cry myself to sleep because for the life of me I could not understand how something as simple as being BLACK made such a HUGE difference.
I wanted to believe that everyone is good. Everyone has a good heart and good intentions. But I’ve realized that through the years I’ve let that blind me to truth and I’ve let people slide with saying things to me that, I’m now realizing, had a MAJOR impact on how I experienced the world.
In high school people called me an oreo or they’d say I didn’t act black enough (hahaha, fuck you). Black people included. When I was in middle school (all black middle school) I was going through a sort of goth phase, so imagine what all the black kids were saying about me then.
I was always the weird “white” “dark-skinned” girl. I would watch dudes come talk to my light-skinned friends and degrade me in front of them, fighting to claim my friends before being stuck with me.
But so what? Right?
The world thinks I’m ugly. I grow up in a society where “white” is “right”. How was I supposed to look at myself back then? I think thinking of myself as something other than “ugly” has been a relatively new concept to me.
I mean, how do other people really see me? I mean, if Trayvon can get shot by some white dude because he’s deemed as “threatening” walking on the sidewalk, then what about me?
What from stopping these white people from shooting at me on a late rainy night?
How am I supposed to trust ANY of you with these deeply internalized views of racism everywhere? How am I supposed to live with THOSE views being drilled inside my head?
And then I feel crazy when I see whiteness in effect cause they preach up and down that it doesn’t exist and that I’m “overreacting.”
Yeah? You think I’m overreacting?
YEAH? WHY CAN’T I GET UPSET WHEN I’VE BEEN TREATED LIKE MY SKIN COLOR IS SOME SORT OF INVITATION TO SHIT ALL OVER ME? WHEN FOR YEARS I’VE BEEN PASSED BY OR RIDICULED FOR MY BROWN SKIN? I FEEL DISPOSABLE IN A COUNTRY WHERE WHITE PEOPLE CAN GET AWAY WITH MURDER YET WE’RE STILL THE BAD GUYS? WE’RE THE ABOMINATION? IN A PLACE WHERE WHITE PEOPLE CAN GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING? AND I JUST THINK BACK TO THE GENERATIONS BEFORE THAT SUFFERED AND IT KILLS ME…
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE BLACK AND HAVE YOUR ANCESTOR’S HISTORY, THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT THIS STUPID FUCKING NATION, INSTITUTIONALLY WIPED AND DEGRADED, AND THEN LOOK AT US LIKE WE’RE CRAZY WHEN WE GET MAD?
I’m just tired of it all. I’m tired because I want to be able to like white people. But they’re making it really hard for me right now.
And every time I think I’m being too harsh I’m the one who keeps getting pied in the face.
"HAHA JOKE’S ON YOU BLACK BITCH. STOP BEING SO OVERLY SENSITIVE. SLAVERY DOESN’T EXIST. RACISM DOESN’T EXIST. YOU HAVE NO REASON TO FEEL BAD LOLOLOLOLOLICOPTER"
I’m just tired of always having to be on guard, watching out for how people treat me, because, who knows if it’s because of race or not? And the thing is, white people will never get it.
Oh yeah, it must be hard to love your white body with all those positive pictures of you pumping up your egos on TV and in the media. Must be hard to love yourself.
Being black in America, in a white society you have to constantly fight to love yourself. CONSTANTLY. No, really, CONSTANTLY. Because almost everything you’re taught to love and respect comes from everything that is the OPPOSITE of you.
And you know, I could lose 20 or 30 lbs to be more “beautiful”, I could even get plastic surgery and get a smaller nose or smaller lips. I could actually dress like a girl for everyday of my life AND ALL THAT STILL DOESN’T MATTER. YOU ALL HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO DO THAT AND MOVE FORWARD.
I’M STILL BLACK IN AMERICA. I don’t fit nowhere.
It’s weary. It’s frustrating.
YOUR PEOPLE BRUTALIZED MY RELATIVES/ANCESTORS. AND STILL CONSTANTLY DO IT ON A DAILY. And yet they still deny deny deny and act as if they know EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE.
WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THE RAGE I HAVE ABOUT THAT? WHO DO I DIRECT THAT AT? Lately it’s been rubbing off on the people around me, and I don’t even know if I should feel sorry about that.
…It’s harder when you think you know someone and then they open their fucking mouth and let you know that a part of them doesn’t deem you worthy as a person.
And you have to let them go.
So now, the question I’ve found myself wrestling with is “how do I deal with y’all?” How am I supposed to trust in you as a friend when you don’t really understand at all? When my bad times amalgamate with things you’ve never experienced before. I mean, if you’ve never experienced it how are you supposed toreally see that I’m having a really hard time? That’s where that “overreacting” bullshit comes in.
And even then, the most they can do is listen and I’m sorry, but sometimes that’s not enough.
I’m having a hard time bridging this gap.
A real hard time.
Especially for the people I’ve considered my friends.
AND, WHITE GUILT? SAVE THAT SHIT BECAUSE IT AIN’T DOIN’ NOTHIN FOR NOBODY EXCEPT MAKING SHIT WORSE.
In fact, your stupid ass guilt makes me just wanna pop you in the face more because you even have the PRIVILEGE to feel guilty. SO GET OUTTA HERE WITH ALL THAT SHIT.
“Nobody is superior, nobody is inferior, but nobody is equal either. People are simply unique, incomparable. You are you, I am I. I have to contribute my potential to life; you have to contribute your potential to life. I have to discover my own being; you have to discover your own being.”—Osho (via nirvikalpa)