This is Me Thursday: Racism. - Pretty Real

This is Me Thursday: Racism.

9:39 PM

So in case you forgot, I'm doing a monthly "This is Me" series where I attempt to share something personal. or something real.  or something close to my heart. or some fatal flaw.  Or all of the above.  The first was this one on a post baby body.  The second was all about money.  The third (sort of) was about loving this man.  And this month's topic is a doozie.  Racism:

It exists.  It's not just something that people of color make up for attention.  I assume you can guess what has me thinking about this topic.  Trayvon Martin. And a ton of other seemingly less significant comments, news stories, and incidents that happen all. the. time.  If you haven't noticed, it might be because you have your mind made up that it's not an issue.  Or because you're not looking.  Or because you haven't been directly affected by it.  None of which is an accusation, rather a possible explanation.  Because I have so many varied feelings on the topic that a cohesive articulate post is probably impossible, I'm going to do a sort of short form version:
On Zimmerman:
{via}
Perhaps Zimmerman did not commit 2nd degree murder but he did find a young black male suspicious for no apparent reason.  He then followed him when asked not to and engaged him.  That much we know.  Did the fight turn ugly and he began to fear for his life?  Perhaps.  I don't know; I wasn't there.  But it's certainly not unreasonable to think race might have had something to do with this. And no, you don't have to be 100% white blue blood to be racist.  An Hispanic can be prejudiced against blacks.  gasp.

my "little" brother with baby Genevieve. 
-I have a brother.  He's black (duh) and there have been many instances in which he felt profiled.  Some obvious (being stopped by the police and searched while walking to work in his trader Joe's shirt and carrying his lunch for instance), some perhaps more of a perspective thing.  I always encourage him not to assume race is the issue. Why?  Because we can't control someone not liking us or assuming we're bad people because of the color of our skin.  We can control our actions and the way we present ourselves.  But that leads me to my next point:

On Being Black:
-being black and wondering if that's what's scaring a person, if that's why that lady crossed the street, if that's why a person didn't like you, if that's why a company didn't hire you, if that's why a man (or woman) didn't find you attractive, if that's why someone assumed you can dance [just trying to lighten the load here]... Seriously it can be a burden.  Do I constantly sit around feeling sorry for myself?  absolutely not. I choose to believe I have everything going for me.  But study after study show that stereotypes, racism, and prejudice continue to play a part in daily interactions--some as important as finding a job.  (You've heard about the "black" name on a resume study right?  If not, read about it here and here).  Or about the white people with the last name "Washington" who soon realized black people weren't making up their discrimination woes.  One of the Caucasian "Washington's" interviewed said he always made sure to show up in person for job inquiries/interviews/etc.  Why?  To make sure the potential employer knew he was a white male, not a black one. [I can't find the original article online...]

On Stereotypes:
-Whether we like it or not TV, Movies, and worse, the news media continue to play into stereotypes.  When you don't know a single person of "X" race, much of what you learn about him/her is from these outlets.  Whether that means  they're smart, sexy, good at math, loud, ignorant, or criminals.  Think fast: Did a certain people group come to mind when reading those adjectives? An example?  I know someone in the prison system.  I talk to his wife often and am amazed to learn what it's really like.  At one point it occurred to me: everything I know about jail or prison is from movies.  And it's not very accurate.  Shocking right?

On the Melting Pot and what I like to call "ignorance is bliss" mentality:
-We didn't all fall into some pot and melt into one huge shade of neutral.  (And that's a very 80s way of thinking about things by the way.  These days it's more of a tapestry analogy...but my HR background is coming into play...). We are all different.  PLEASE don't pretend we're all the same.  We're not, nor should we be.  There are a couple of people in my life that really feel that way.  I can't tell you how much it bothers me.  They refuse to believe that race means...well...anything.  That's ignorant.  Even babies see the difference.  (Read more about that here*- but as a snapshot consider this: when given a deck of cards with people's faces on them young children separated by race rather than by gender or age.  Wow, I guess we DO see color! Interesting right?).  Please don't tell me we're all the same.  If you have eyes, you can see that's not the case.  Do we all bleed red blood? Yes!  Do we all love, fear, hope, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of color?  Absolutely.  Is our life experience all the same?  No. Is our upbringing, background, and culture the same?  Most likely no.

-I had to recently unfriend someone who claimed that blacks were "bringing racism on themselves" and were not in fact minorities.  In her words "There are no minorities in America were all the same."  Um, I'm sorry but "minority" isn't a made up thing.  African Americans comprise 13.1% of the population (source).  It's a fact of life in America.  How we (the minority) let that affect us is on us, but let's not pretend it doesn't exist. Especially when you're a young white woman who has never walked in a pretend minority's shoes.

On items geared toward black people and/or black pride:

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-When people say "it's not fair. black people have special TV channels, cards, hair magazines, schools, etc.  If white people did that..."  Um, I'm so sorry to tell you this but prime time is "white" TV.  If there are black characters they are typically side kicks (and don't get started on the funny, misogynistic, player black best friend stereotype in many movies) and supporting characters. the story is told from a white perspective to a mostly white audience.  We had to wait how long for a black Disney princess?  Try going to Wal-Mart or Target and finding a black doll for your black daughter.  Especially when you live in New Hampshire.  It's harder than it sounds.  Hallmark cards are "white" cards.  Try finding a picture of a black family on these cards or calendars.  I dare you.  Unless it's a line created specifically for African Americans, good luck.  And by the way, anyone is more than free to buy these "black" cards; just as I have purchased many cards featuring Caucasian families and kids.  I love beauty magazines, but try reading the beauty tips in them (especially the hair section) as a black woman and just tell me what if any of the information applies to you.  Every so often, there is one section that lumps all African Americans together in a "dark" skin or "curly" hair category.  I have 4 sisters we each have different skin tones and different hair textures.  But does the beauty world see that?  No, what they see are dollar signs.  And when the consumers are mostly the majority, that is who they are catering to.  The end.  And as for black pride.  All I can say is, how many presidents have been white?  How many have been black?  Besides athletics, how many leaders, CEOs, or people in power are people of color?  In other words, white pride is inherent.  Black pride sometimes has to be taught and nurtured.  I know black people who think all black people are losers (except for themselves of course).  True story.  Sad story but a true one.

On my experience:
Profiling:
-I consider myself blessed and not severely affected (at least directly) by racism and prejudice but I have had my share of experiences.  Mostly things my grandparents would laugh at considering the racism they faced, but for me, they stung. Such as: going into a store with my black friends as a teen and being conspicuously followed until we left.  Enter same store with my white friends and being left alone.  Ironically one of my white girlfriends would shove half the beauty aisle in her starter coat while the store employees were assuming she didn't steal.  Needless to say after I saw that I didn't dare go to the store with her again.
The N word:
-Overhearing a friend of a friend refer to a black person as a N****R.  Oops, didn't know I was within earshot.  And then having to hear a friend defend him "We didn't know many black people growing up." I'm sorry; do you have to have a black bff to know we don't like being called the N word?  Um, I'm thinking no.  And in case you're confused, in this day and age if you use that word to describe a black person, you are racist.
Beauty:
{via}

-Being told "you're pretty for a black girl," or "you're the prettiest black girl I've met."  Why thank you! That might be the most mean, hateful, and ignorant compliment I've ever received! I'm blushing.  Oh wait, black people don't blush.  Or being told "I've never met an attractive dark skinned black woman."  Right because the media determines who's beautiful and you're right.  Dark skinned black women don't fit that mold.  Beyonce?  absolutely? Trya? yes! Halle Berry?  You betcha.  What do these women have in common you ask? Light skin.  Oh and long blond hair in Beyonce's and Tyra's case.  Oh yes, we're doing great with diversity in beauty.
Stereotypes:
-Downloading an app for Genevieve and the girl dictating the alphabet sounded black. (funny that we can make that distinction).  I was happy. I thought, Oh great, it's a little black girl. Then Joe reads the reviews, some of which say "Don't buy this! It's in Ebonics"  "Don't buy this, it's done with a black accent."  I had to laugh at this one! What the heck is a black accent?!  Sad when a tiny attempt at diversity is attacked.

Disclaimer:
-I'm not saying the jury was racist in Zimmerman's trial.  I know many who think they were or who think they couldn't empathize.  Quite honestly it's not their job to empathize.  It's their job to look at the facts presented before them and make a decision based on them...a decision beyond a reasonable doubt.  They had to presume him 100% innocent going into the trial.  It was the state's job to prove otherwise.  That's all I'm saying about that...

-This might be unpopular but I do believe the media skews information and facts to play into the white hater, black victim mentality.  Again, I know plenty of people who will disagree but that's just my opinion.  I personally believe there's enough 'real' evidence of race relations issues without having to trump up or make up others.  And I think when the media does that, they simply hurt the case of real injustice and inequality.

-I believe that we are all responsible for our life and our outcomes.  I believe we have to take personal
responsibility for our choices and their subsequent consequences.  But that doesn't mean the deck isn't stacked or that everyone has the same chance at success in America.  Typing that is difficult for me.  I want to believe everyone has the same chance of success.  But it wouldn't be true.  There certainly is more opportunity here than anywhere but there's a lot of disadvantage as well.  And I'm not talking about people who make poor choices and work the system.  I'm talking about kids that grow up with a poor education and no options.  Life isn't fair.  Whether you think it's supposed to be fair and whose job it is to make things fair and/or equal and if that's even a worthy cause...well that's an entirely different subject!

-I know racism does not equal black and white only! I used those as primary examples simply because the controversy that spawned this post was the Martin/Zimmerman one. Which is sort of ironic b/c Zimmerman was half white, half Hispanic yet the case has been reported on as black vs. white.  I also used that because obviously I'm an African American and can speak from my own experience in this skin.

Lastly: This came across as more of a rant than I intended.  But the "this is me" series is real people! ha! You never know what you're gonna get! Clearly I have a lot to say on the topic.  Also clearly (I hope) I love my readers and do not intend to offend anyone.  It's a touchy subject so some offense might have occurred...but I hope not.  I hope it just gave you a glimpse into someone else's perspective and logic...even if you don't agree with every word uttered.

How we deal with all of this is up to us! I will never play the victim.  I feel that I'm responsible for my destiny.  I choose to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not into my own understanding, in all my ways to acknowledge him and trust that He will direct my path (Proverbs 3:5&6).  I trust him that my life experience will be what he intends for me if I'm seeking Him first above all else.  And if I encounter some disparity, that vengeance is his.  I choose to control what I can control and leave the rest alone. Worry doesn't add a day to my life and I do think some people focus so much on the unfairness that they begin to get defensive and put off an attitude that repels the fair and kind treatment they're seeking.  So I vow to be respectful and do the right thing.

I hope this made you think and see the topic a little differently than you might have in the past (regardless of what "color" you are).  Thanks for taking the time to read!  What do you think? Has America come a long way?  Are things getting better?  Do we have a long way to go?  All of the above?


*I do not agree with everything in the "Is your Baby a Racist" article (especially its name) and yes, it was most likely written with an agenda...but I definitely wouldn't discount everything in it.  there are definitely some valuable points!

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19 comments

  1. I love this series! And I love that you become more transparent with each one! Beautifully written and I appreciate hearing a different perspective :)

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    1. Thanks Jordan! Means a lot coming from you! Every time I write one of these I seriously contemplate deleting it! Glad you're enjoying it...and thanks for the comment love! ;)

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  2. Hey Tiffany, thanks so much for sharing. It's good to have some concrete examples of how racism affects black people. It puts things into better perspective for me. I think you are brave for being so vulnerable about this topic. I'm always scared to mention racism for fear of being offensive to others or fear of being called racist simply because I want to have an honest conversation about it. As a white person I'm scared and even intimidated by the topic, because I can't relate. But I want to understand better, because it does affect everyone in one way or another.

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    1. I can totally understand that Brittaney. I've seen people ask "innocent" questions and then be attacked. And even as a minority there's sometimes a pressure to have certain opinions...and when you go against those opinions people can be very unforgiving. But it's not "me" to just conform. ;) Thanks for being a loyal reader and commenting! I SO appreciate it!

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  3. I agree with Jordan - this series of posts is awesome, and I love hearing the "real" you come through. Although I hate to say that and somehow imply that party planning isn't the "real" you... :)

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    1. Thanks Amanda!! And yes, parties are "me" as well...I guess two sides of the same coin! ;) It's easy to share parties and DIY without sharing "me," so this series was my attempt at the latter!

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  4. Great article! Racism for sure exists, to say otherwise is insane. You're spot on about the media skewing facts or reporting flat out lies. I really think they are a huge problem because they fan the fire by putting out incorrect information. I live in the Northeast but have lived in the South for a period of time and I was shocked at the racism from both white and black people. It's sad really, you'd think we would have come further. The upside is that I believe the younger generation will make a huge contribution in ending racism in this country but it starts at home. The media will always do what they do, this is what makes them money via viewership & corporation ad's. Our collective well being depends on us, black and white alike, to not allow the media to divide us any further and to educate within our own homes. We'll get through this because in the end the good always out numbers the bad.

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    1. bad news sells. no one wants to hear about people getting along! Thanks for your comment. :)

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  5. Also the Paula Dean controversy comes to mind when I read this article. Do you believe she is racist? Many people went on the defense for her and while I do think she is sorry for her use of the word, I don't know how honest she is being w herself and the public. I think this is part of the culture of where she is from and has it really changed?

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    1. can I plead the 5th?! lol. I'm not sure...I think using that word is racist for sure. But the fact that it was 30 years ago makes me think she could have changed her mindset? I honestly didn't follow the story very closely...

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  6. I texted you some of my thoughts, but wanted to applaud you for writing this and putting it out there. It's a sensitive and tricky subject. As the mama of a mixed child, I've always known I would have the challenge of educating myself on the topic having never experienced it and making sure I can help my child if he ever has to deal with any of the things his daddy or some of our friends have dealt with. On another note, I think it's 100% awesome to put your whole self out there, not just parties or DIY projects or home design things or fashion. You are what makes your blog a very special place. Big hugs, my lovely friend!

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    1. Thanks so much Jessica! Not sure if you remember, but the "This is Me" series was born out of one of our many e-mail conversations!! Anyway, even though I'm a minority, being biracial brings its own set of issues (and advantages!) that I won't understand...so I too have a learning curve! Bodhi is a beautiful boy and hopefully his generation will be SO much better than ours (which is much better than our parents')!

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  7. fantastic article Tiff! I know that my parents also strove really hard to raise me to be "colorblind", but after meeting, dating and subsequently marrying Miah he really opened my eyes to how different things were for him growing up. Like you said, as a white American girl, I had no idea how life was like growing up for my husband being biracial in NH in the 80's.

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    1. Thanks Kat! So interesting to be married to a person of a different race and be able to have open and honest chats about stuff like this!

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  8. Beautiful post! I grew up in small town mid-west America and didn't really realize how much racism was still going on in the world. I've moved to Oregon since then and have found friends from different ethnicities and have discovered just how prevalent it is. I feel so naive to be shocked each time... isn't it 2013!?

    What was more was learning about my own prejudices that I didn't even realize that I had. I didn't even realize saying something like "mixed babies are so gorgeous" was actually quite terrible to some people. Something I never meant to be harmful was!

    Having people in my life (and reading articles like this) has really made me grow as a person and learn so much. I knew growing up that saying the "N word" was wrong and racist. I didn't learn the intricacies of it all though. I think it is important for people of all races and backgrounds to be open about these issues to help teach the people who want to learn.

    Growing up I had a gay mom in the Bible belt. It gave me a very small dose into what it felt like to be judged and discriminated against. I never, ever want to make a single person feel that way.

    Anyway, thank you for such an honest post. I'm looking forward to reading more.

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    1. Whoa... totally didn't finish a thought in there, "Having people in my life (and reading articles like this) that talk about racism, has really made me grow as a person and learn so much."

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    2. Thanks for your comment Jenni! I think it can be tough to have open conversations without getting offended or defensive but that's one reason I think it's so valuable to have diversity in our friendships. When we are friends with a person there's an established trust so we can have more open dialogue about things that matter!

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  9. Thank you for writing this! Being in an interracial relationship I have learned ALOT about my white privilege and continue to be on a journey of learning. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and things so personal and real!

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    1. super late response but thanks for your comment and stopping by!! I loved your cue the confetti party you did with Jessica! Big fan! ;)

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