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My Experience with Racism and Showing Up as My Whole Self

In the glow of the morning light is, ironically, when I feel the heaviest. When I wake up, I admire the sun seeping through the cracks of my curtains, spilling on to my sheets, and dancing across my hard-wood floor. I smile and reflect on the wonder, excitement, and gratitude that bubble up in my chest. What a beautiful new day.

These days, those feelings of excitement, wonder, and gratitude are accompanied by a string of other feelings that have always lingered in the background of my life. These feelings are familiar but are recently making their appearance at the forefront of my mind. I am forced to acknowledge the space that they have occupied in my life. These are feelings that I do not always know how to articulate but choose to sit with and observe. I reflect on my experience with racism and the heaviness of the world today.

While I wake up and feel deeply the beauty that comes with just being alive, having another day to breathe and love and learn. I also wake up and feel dread, anger, confusion, loneliness, and a longing for radical change. As a mixed-race, Black woman in the United States, I am familiar with these feelings because of my experience with societal conditioning and racism for all of my life.

However, these feelings of deep pain and longing for radical change are not just for me. I feel them deeply for everybody in the Black and Brown community. For my Black and Brown people who experience the injustices that are ingrained in our systems, systems that were intended to oppress and enslave us.
  • Deep pain and anger resides in my chest for my Black and Brown siblings whose lives have been brutally and unjustly taken from them at the hands of police and in the name of racism.
  • I hurt for the beautiful people who are told that they are not worthy or wanted because of their blackness.
  • Anger resides in me when I acknowledge the systems that enable cycles of poverty and economic disparity amongst Black and Brown communities.
  • When I am educated on the systems that keep Black people enslaved through prison labor, I am enraged.
  • I am angered by the disparities in the criminal justice system when it comes to harsher and longer prison sentences for Black and Brown people.
  • My soul is deeply saddened for the Black and Brown people who face discrimination and hate because they identify as LGBTQ+.
  • I feel for my Black and Brown siblings who experience daily microaggressions, racism, and oppression.
  • Pain, anger, shock, and deep sorrow for George Floyd, for Breonna Taylor, for Sandra Bland, for Elijah McClain, for Ahmaud Arbery, for Eric Garner, for Trayvon Martin, for twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, and many, many more resides in me.
I proudly exclaim that Black Lives Matter. All of them.

The prevalence of racism in America is deeply rooted and extensive. It is complex and seeps into every aspect of our society.

Because of the complexity of racism in America, I have not felt qualified to add my personal experience and perspective to the conversation. However, I do believe that it is important for each of us to own the space that we occupy in the world and to show up as our whole selves.

I am just one woman. One point of view. I cannot speak on the experience of every Black and Brown person. And I recognize every day that I have a duty to continue to learn. To acknowledge the privilege that I have as a half-white, light-skinned woman in a society that worships Euro-centric beauty standards. AND I do experience racism.

I do grapple with the rejection and pain that exists when I am disliked, even hated, for the color of my skin. These experiences include, but are not limited to:
  • Having been spat at while walking home from campus.
  • Being silenced and looked over.
  • Having been told that I am pretty “for a black girl”
  • Being countlessly asked, “What are you?” “Can I touch your hair?” And many other microaggressions
  • Experiencing ridicule for the beautifully black parts of me, such as my hair, lips, and nose.
  • Being told, “You don’t even sound black, you’re so articulate.”
  • Enduring numerous debates with white people about why they should not say the “n” word.
  • Being the butt of racist jokes that perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
  • Spending my childhood longing for a positive representation of Black women in the media, searching for someone to relate to in a sea of Euro-centric television shows and movies.
  • Going my whole school career dreading the part of history class when we learned about slavery, feeling alone and helpless because I was the only Black person in the room.
  • Sitting in on conversations mocking the culture, style, and vernacular of Black women, too afraid to speak up or draw attention to myself.
  • Having my experience as a Person of Color explained to me by a White person.
  • Watching the news and seeing young men and women who look like me continue to be lit on fire, slammed to the ground, choked, shot, beaten, and killed just for existing, just for being Black.

Sharing these experiences is not me asking for sympathy, but seeking change and creating open dialogue. I share my personal experiences to show my hope that this revolution, this shift in the hearts and minds of Americans is sustainable and long-lasting. We have a long way to go, but I am grateful for the passion and desire for change that I see in so many.

I am learning to reflect on my experiences and hold space for myself. To allow all of my feelings to coexist. And I am learning that conversation matters.

If you’ve read this and have a reaction to defend the idea that racism does not exist or if you feel that your experiences as a White person are de-valued by Black Lives Matter. If the beliefs that you hold feel threatened, your political affiliation under attack. Feel defensive or enraged or simply want to believe that “not seeing color” means that you don’t hold racist ideas. If you don’t believe that you are influenced by the racist systems that plague our country. Or that “ignorance is bliss” applies to the topic of race and equality:

I kindly encourage you to stop and breathe. Reflect on whatever your implicit reaction is. To reflect on your own experiences. Your experiences with sickness, poverty, abuse, or any sort of pain that you have experienced is completely valid. What, then, makes the pain of Black and Brown people and their experiences with racism, poverty, and racial trauma less valid?

I encourage you to look outside of yourself, listen to the experiences of a community that is in pain, and bravely confront the parts of you that are conditioned beliefs.

I offer you a different perspective and challenge you to think about this topic outside of political affiliation. To reflect on the pain of humanity. Acknowledging somebody else’s pain does not devalue your own.

“It is not our difference that divides us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde

As I sit on my bed and soak in the golden morning light, I acknowledge the beauty in today. At the same time, I take a deep breath and also acknowledge the pain, anger, and longing that coexist deep in my chest. I am not sure how long these feelings will stay, but I hope that they do. Because they are not useless—they light a fire inside of me.

These feelings drive me to learn about my role in advocating for change. The passion that I feel allows me to educate myself on how I can contribute to lasting and sustainable change. I am growing into what my place in this change is, by learning about topics such as:

  • Reproductive justice
  • Mental health needs within the Black and Brown community
  • Supporting Black and Brown mothers
  • Creating a safe and supportive society for Womxn of Color (and all womxn) who are affected by sexual assault
  • Colorism
  • Internalized racism
I hope that you will take the time to connect with the fire that burns inside of you, too. The part of you that knows that we are more than just bodies, more than the color of our skin. More than our political affiliation. That we belong to each other.

Let your feelings coexist and sit with them. Move forward with the pain and anger that you feel, and continue to advocate for change.

I would love to connect with you and chat more about this topic. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram.

Listen to the We Podcast episode on removing the veil of racism HERE to learn more about fighting against injustice.

To educate yourself on the complexities of racism, I recommend the book So You Want to Talk about Race and other works by Ijeoma Oluo.

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