Blinded

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.

6 thoughts on “Blinded

  1. LOL! Great story, and thanks for sharing. I’ve done similar stupid things trying to bond with blacks or other minorities, and I’ve always found myself beating myself up for it afterwords. How could I be so stupid! 🙂 I think I’ve finally learned better, but we’ll see the next time there is an opportunity.

  2. ... Zoe ~ says:

    It’s taken me years to learn to keep my mouth shut. 🙂

  3. Donna Banta says:

    Prairie Nymph, why did it take me so long to find your blog? I will be back.

    Don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all had similar experiences — or at least I have. Like Zoe, I’ve had to learn to keep my mouth shut.

  4. Lorena says:

    Thank you for admitting that. I didn’t think it was possible that a person of .. another race would admit to doing that. To be fair, we must admit that we all do it to other people. This is an equal opportunity mistake.

    For instance, when someone tells us they have, say, rheumatism, we immediately start telling them of our aches and pains. If someone tells us their mom died of cancer, we immediately start thinking of, and sharing about, this-or-that relative who also died of cancer.

    I think most people, me included, need to develop more empathy for the suffering and an ability to just listen.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    • prairienymph says:

      True, there are many ways to open our mouths :p It is comforting to know I’m not alone.

      I think in this particular case I was so focused on myself with
      1) wanting to relate to her and
      2) not wanting to hear something upsetting
      that I completely forgot to focus on her.

      Maybe I don’t have to focus on being more anti-racist, but just more on being generally empathetic.

  5. Lorena says:

    Or… maybe we just need to stop trying so hard. Isn’t it that when we’re trying to do best when we do worse. That’s the case with me, anyway.

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