I learned so many things when I was in school, high school especially. I went to a really amazing parochial school with a lot of teenagers of color who were brilliant, funny, and multi-talented. At the time, I didn’t think about it as normal or abnormal to be in school with mostly peers who looked like me or came from similar and different backgrounds than I did until I became an adult and saw the options around me for the kids of color in communities in which I later worked, and thought “oh, we’re not all in the same boat.” How devastated I was, if I can say that. I mean, I wasn’t actually suffering physically or mentally from my ignorance in the same way as thousands of youths in NYC and across the world are. I didn’t wake up hungry everyday or miss meals because of poverty. Nor did I have to walk home and enter an empty house after school each day because my dad picked me up from school until I was given my own car to drive myself to and from school, or carpool with my neighbor. You see, this is how I now see what the other side of privilege was like. I didn’t have to think about what other people were going through, nor imagine what other people lived like because I had completely forgotten about how I entered the world. My extended family transformed my circumstances and life looked like something from a storybook for me, at least on the outside. It wasn’t until much later that I recognized my own sadness, trauma, and dissociation in life, too.
I bring this up because I have reminded myself and been reminded many times about the abundance and blessings I’ve been given. It wasn’t always pleasant nor appreciated until later, but I see it. I also see how it shaped my worldview and my ability to intersect at various positions of influence. It reminds me of what the white world is like in the sense of not seeing inequity, nor wanting to.
I know I have some white readers and I’m thinking of you as I write this. Unlike me, you get to experience life without being racialized or pushed into conversations about race or withstand what it’s like to have someone say microaggressive things about you in front of your face. Although I believe my situation was unique in many ways, I have not come through this journey unscathed by my own ignorance—the ignorance of thinking “we’re all in the same boat” or that “everything is alright with the world,” or that “things are better because we’ve had a Black/biracial President” or whatever small-minded things many people have bought into. Instead of keeping my head down about privilege and race I learned to become actively engaged with it. It started at 15 in my privileged high school, continued for a while into college, and has shown up many times since. I’m thankful for the uncomfortable experiences I go through. They’re not easy but they make me stronger in ways I appreciate about life. It encourages me to be inquisitive about the ways other people in the world live and think. It even helps me to have patience and compassion at times for the willfully ignorant. But, more important than that, it takes me places that I know other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) may never go in the world, so that I may be the voice for them, and hopefully the vessel to make other *ish happen. I want a better world for people like me and unlike me because none of us are unmarked by racism and privilege. I can’t do it alone, so I ask, are you willing to begin today, with even a small step towards becoming more curious, in a very genuine way about the things, people and places you know little to nothing about?
I didn’t know any of this would come from me today, but it did. It poured out like a steady, thick liquid; one that feels perfectly selected.
Lately, I’ve been sharing parts of my activism on my social media channels. It’s been quite a busy and educating couple of months. I’ve read more books this year and it’s only month 6 than I have at times in an entire year. I’ve listened to more liberating podcasts, watched speeches by white Jewish activists and scholars and discovered more Asian American brilliant thinkers than ever before. If nothing else comes from my being at the intersection of my work as an activist and MH provider and Life Coach in the future, I’m at best a broader thinker, more grounded in reality I hope than I have been at other times in my life. And for that, I’m grateful.
What are you putting yourself to the test to do lately? Is it producing a widening of your mind? An opening of your heart? I hope this blog today resonated with some of you. I won’t always write about this subject, but today was a little different; still me if you’ve been following along, but just more direct I think.
I’m eager to hear from you. So, as always Village, tell a friend to tell 5 friends to subscribe to this blog. Send me an email or add comments to the post when we put this up on Instagram and Twitter (follow along if you’d like by clicking the social media icons on the page). I enjoy reading your reflections.
Until next time Village,
*This blog is about becoming free. It’s a reflection of introspective thoughts and experiences that have crossed miles of self-discovery. I created this blog to inspire others to live life with less self-criticism, judgment and openness to new experiences. May you find that you learn how to live a life by design and on your own terms!*