True fact: Writing this and sharing it scares me a whole lot. But fuck that. HERE WE GO ANYWAY.
I am tired of conversations about race that are black versus white.
Recently, I saw a play that I hated. It was just one in a series of plays I've come across lately that are in the struggle to start a conversation about race and privilege in a way that seems "edgy" and will make audiences "uncomfortable". A play that insists that the discomfort of the audience is "necessary".
Now, I've been the only black person in more rooms than I can count. I've been asked to participate in more "necessarily uncomfortable" conversations about race than I can remember, or want to. But, sitting in the theatre and watching this play, I got so angry I could barely stand it.
Because the moral of the story seemed to be: We can't talk about race! We can't! It's too horrible! The horrors faced by black people are too horrible! And white people will never understand! In fact, white people are evil villains! Even if they don't want to be! They are evil! And black people are evil too! Because they can't stop being angry! And everything is shitty! Everything is terrible! Never talk about race or it will end in the obliteration of everything good, and you will be sorry forever that you tried! Black people and white people should probably just stop trying to hang out with each other altogether! Quickly everyone! Get to your separate, but equal, corners!
And too often this is the conclusion drawn. That there's no way to talk about these things. That there's no way for us to understand each other. That our options are either to pretend racism is over, which is a fucking joke, or to be pissed off forever about how far from over it is, which is fucking exhausting.
Do I think we need to talk about race? YES. Do I think racism is over? NO. Do I think we should just forget our history and just move forward? NO. Do I think white people are evil? NO. Do I think black people are wrong to be angry? NO. But I am tired of conversations about race that boil down to being about black versus white. I am tired of it. Because I belong to both sides, and I hate trying to split myself in half.
Those are my parents, in the picture, if you hadn't guessed. Any of you who know me, or have been reading this blog, know they're not married anymore, and that my dad is a difficult human being, to put it gently. But for a second I would like to say fuck all of that. Let's just look at these pictures.
How beautiful are they? I don't mean beautiful because they're an interracial couple, and "beautiful" is the word we use to prove we are progressive and accepting. I mean, beautiful because my parents are beautiful people. Both of them. I love these pictures. I love the people in these pictures. I love my parents, both my parents, more than anything. No matter what.
Growing up mostly with my mom, and being surrounded by white people for most of my life, I will absolutely admit there were times I wished I wasn't black. I wanted to be like all the other kids I knew. I wanted to fit in. I didn't like having hair that was different, or having crushes on boys who would never even look at me because as far as they were concerned I was basically a different species. I didn't like having to decide what word to use instead of the n-word when reading Huck Finn in high school, and I didn't like having to agree to the word "Negro", which in my opinion is just as bad.
And I will absolutely admit that there have been times when I wished I wasn't white. When I've felt like it separates me from being "authentically" black, whatever that means. There have been times when being light-skinned has put me on the outside of conversations about the black experience. When I've had to cop to my white privilege and admit that many of the "typical" black american experiences are not ones that I know.
But I am both. No amount of wishing it away has changed that. And thank god, because I have come to love both sides, and now I can't imagine being any other way. I wouldn't change it for the world.
My family is flawed, certainly. There are a great many people who think my dad is villainous. That he aligns all too well with the stereotypical absent and substance-abusing black father. To this I say merely, fuck the haters. My dad, for all his flaws, gave me his great sense of humor. He gave me a strength that I carry with me in everything I do. He taught me to be proud of who I am, to never let anyone tell me what I can't do, that if I do my best then that's all I can do, and that's all he wants from me. He taught me not to hide from being black. He taught me not to hide from being angry. He taught me to dream big, and stand tall and be loud.
And then of course, my mom. Who has taught me patience and kindness. She's taught me unending generosity and courtesy. She's taught me not to dismiss the things I feel, no matter how difficult. She's taught me what love is. She's an amazing role model, owns her own business, her own home, has amazing friends and a rich social life full of people who respect her and who she supports with all her heart. She opens her home and her heart to both my friends and my sister's. And never has she said a cruel word about my father.
So I get tired of these conversations that pit black against white. I get mad at the notion that there can be no understanding. That there is no hope for open communication. That blackness and whiteness can't coexist. I get mad that the conversation HAS to be uncomfortable. Are we really too chicken shit to look at the truth of our history and our own prejudices and be honest about them? Are we really so closed-minded that we can't listen to someone with an experience different than our own and try to understand them? Are we really so naive to think that there's one definition of blackness and one definition of whiteness? Are we so sure that we're so liberal it's really not necessary for us to talk about this stuff anymore?
I know I sound like an idealist. I know racism exists. I notice when people choose not to sit next to me on the bus. I remember the first time I was called "nigger". I see the shock on people's faces when I tell them I went to an Ivy League college. I know there is no shortage of ignorance in this country. There is no shortage of hate. But knowing all of that doesn't stop me from being tired.
Because I was raised in a house where no two people looked like each other. And I got used to loving people for who they are, not what they looked like. I am tired of being faced again and again with the "painful conversations about race" where someone has to take the blame, and someone else has to be the victim. I am tired of black people being the scary ones who victimize white people. I am tired of white people being the ignorants who victimize black people.
It's not news that racism exists, I'm sorry. It's not news that race is a hot button issue. It's not news that people are bad at talking about race in a way that isn't offensive. This is just the truth. Race exists, and prejudice exists. Hate exists, discrimination exists. We have to accept that this is true, and figure out what the fuck we're going to do about it.
It'll be news when we figure out a way to talk about race that doesn't end in a bloodbath. It'll be news when we learn to look at people for all of who they are, and not just what we think we know based on how they look. It'll be news when we accept that "colorblindness" is a joke. It'll be news when we find a new moral to the story. It'll be news when it's okay for someone like me to exist, without having to apologize to white people for not being whiter, and to black people for not being blacker. It'll be news when seeing interracial couples isn't edgy anymore. It'll be news when simply daring to talk about race doesn't win you a prize for bravery.
It'll be news when we open our mouths about race, and finally have something new to say.