Being a P.O.C in our world
June 20, 2020
Racist. That’s a powerful word, and depending on who it comes from, it can be accusatory too.
I have personally struggled with the idea of racism my whole life, because what does being racist mean today? How can one suffer from racism when we as a world have made leaps towards becoming more developed?
Racism is no longer socially acceptable in its most blatant forms. Gone are the days of colonialism and worldwide slavery, and really we should give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done, right? Except who is ‘we’? Is ‘we’ our collective humanity, or is it simply the oppressors of the past and today trying to wash their hands clean of guilt and appear to be #woke.
There are a lot of discussions to be had when it comes to race and our world’s relationship with it. But that is not what this article is about, this article is about the experience that every person of color in this world endures today.
Let’s start off by establishing the fact that racism is not a thing of the past. It may not be as blatant as it was, but that does not mean that it is any better. Racism is still a thing.
It is a thing when a man was shot while exercising for no other reason other than the color of his skin.
It is a thing when the president of the ‘free world’ labels a virus as a product of an entire race, rather than the product of an authoritative government.
It is a thing when a New York resident is stopped on the street, called an ‘Asian bitch’, told that the current virus is her fault, and told to go back to a country she hasn’t called home for more than 20 years.
It is a thing when someone mocks your accent and the way you pronounce things.
It is a thing when an 8-year-old child is told by his classmates that his skin is the color of poo.
It was a thing when I was asked point-blank if I smell like curry.
And it is a thing when you feel like the color of your skin makes you vulnerable; you do your very best hide your originality, shed your skin, and really anything it takes to ‘fit in.’
If you think that any of these scenarios are humorous or simply conversational, I ask you to consider what it would be like to be on the receiving end of such comments, not just sporadically, but as part of your daily experience. How would it feel to be constantly reminded that simply the color of your skin invites such treatment from people ranging from strangers to seemingly close friends?
The cruel thing about racism is that it coils itself around your neck and makes you believe the experiences you have had are your fault. It makes you ashamed to have been on the receiving end of the same old and tired racist joke. It starves you of validation from yourself and makes you hungry for acceptance from the ones who inflict the pain.
You carry this shame with you, but you never acknowledge it, because somehow we have been trained to think that the best way to deal with such racist encounters is to shirk them off and pretend like they never happened. After all, we wouldn’t want to cause a scene, I mean can you imagine what people would think?
When you decide to call someone a derogatory term, such as the n-word, the action is momentary for you, but the burden that a person has to carry lasts an entire lifetime. And in fact, it proves that you are not all that evolved compared to the collective humanity that practiced slavery. Actually, you are just better at masking your misplaced contempt than they were.
Racism is so woven into the experience of being a person of color in our world today that at times, it can seem easier to just ignore it and hope it will never be too much of a hassle. But ignoring it is the worst possible thing you can do because for every second you allow it to just sit there it continues to fester. Racism does not start with your experiences, but it can end when you decide to stand up and break the vicious cycle it imposes.
I am tired of accepting the status quo as it is. There was a point in my life where I was too afraid to call out bigotry when I witnessed it. I was afraid that no one would stand by me, that I would be the girl who cried ‘racist!’ And to be honest, there are moments where I am still afraid because it is scary to be the only person fighting back. When you spend your whole life trying to fit in, it can feel like you are gambling everything when you fight back. You could be throwing away a life spent under the radar, where you are not ostracized for standing up for yourself.
I think when we talk about racism and what it feels like to be at the receiving end of it, there is a lot of hurt involved. It can be hard for people to open up and admit what they have gone through, but the moment you do, there is an overwhelming sense of empowerment; you allow yourself to finally break past all the stigma and the anger and the sense of hurt and finally take control of your own narrative again.
You can’t control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you react to it, and I am asking you, today to start standing up for yourself. I am asking you to realize that you need not be ashamed of what has happened to you, but that you can use it to let someone else know that they are not alone, that they don’t have to feel like they are gambling everything they have if they decide to stand up for themselves.
Ultimately, I am asking you to realize that the only way we can break the cycle that is racism is if we shine a light on it and refuse to turn it off.