I am so white, it blinds me.
In a conversation with a classmate, discrimination came up.
This woman told me that she had been treated terribly because of her colour, but that she didn’t think she had ever experienced sexism or any other kind of discrimination. (Surprising because she belongs to other minority groups including the LGBT community.)
Instead of just listening, I opened my mouth.
I added that she probably was being discriminated against because of her gender and sexuality too because Black Women are placed in a different stereotype than Black Men, and that racial minorities are often feminized (read: infantilized) in general. We talked about subtle ‘isms as opposed to overt ‘isms. Then I shared personal experiences of how people treated me when they found out my mom cleaned other people’s houses even though my colour is light.
What a jerk! Instead of listening to her share very painful experiences, I told her that she was being treated poorly other ways too. Then I talked about myself, as if the experiences were parallel.
Now, I did not want to hear about how horribly she is treated. I know that it happens, but I’d rather pretend that racism is losing power.
My story was funny. But not only was it about me, it could not compare at all with what she had experienced.
Instead of responding by validating her experience and letting it be her own, I had to be involved.
Like the football player who tells the girl who never walks without pepper spray that he understands her fears because sexual harassment can happen to guys too …
Like the white person who tells the Native American that they are sick of the stereotype that white people are all racist, so therefore they experience racism…
Yeah, I can empathize and try and relate, but I’ve got to realize that I haven’t experienced what she has and certainly not to that degree.
Also, it isn’t her job to make me understand. That is my job. And I can’t do that with my mouth open wide enough to show my ass.