If you ever hear those words, you can bet that whatever comes after is gonna be racist.
It is OKAY that we talk about this. It is OKAY to acknowledge color. It is necessary.
I would wager to say that 99.5% of you who read my blog are like minded because we are an absolutely compassionate and loving bunch of folks here, however, it still feels important to me to talk about this. So here goes. My heart is in my throat and my guts are in turmoil because I know that I have no idea. Not a clue what it is like to live with this racism. Subtle or blatant.
The closest I come to being discriminated against is being a woman. And yes, it happens. Also, I am a RAGING ALCOHOLIC who shouldn’t at all have the life that I have today but I do because if I stay sober, I can keep my alcoholism inside. I know I’ve lost people due to my alcoholism. I’ve lost people in my life and I’ve lost readers. However, there isn’t a sign on my forehead that says, I AM A DRUNK. Because I sure as hell would be judged for that if there were. But I don’t. I am a blonde irish white woman who has absolutely had advantages in my life simply because of the color of my skin when so many others have had hardships SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN.
THAT IS NOT OKAY.
I am grateful for sobriety for a million reasons, but one of them is my exposure to people I never ever would be in the same rooms with other than a 12 step program or rehab or halfway houses. And I have heard too many stories. Too many tales of woe and grief and heartache and suffering. And not the kind of suffering I’ve endured. Being homeless and a white girl like me is one thing. Awful for sure. But being homeless and black? Well, it is entirely different to pull yourself back up. It absolutely can and is done and I see it happen. But the struggle and redemption is all that much more complicated and heavy laden.
I am naive, but I am learning more. I am seeing more and more. I didn’t grow up in a city where there was diversity and I didn’t meet many people of different color skin than me. So I honestly didn’t know. My parents absolutely taught love for all. It was never ever an issue that anybody would be considered any different from us based on the skin. I am so thankful for that. Because that is how this starts. With what we teach and show our kids. My dad raised us on a solid diet of Motown records and concerts and for that I will always be grateful, but that was pretty much the extent of our black experience.
I see and hear it every day. It’s mostly subtle. I’ve lived in a big city for years and years and have been exposed to awful situations (but mostly great ones) and people of all colors. I learn about it from my friends of color and I am so grateful that they talk about it and share it and write about it and articulate what it feels like and let us know that we have much work to be done.
I’m going to use this space to highlight just a few people who have had a profound effect on my life. There are many more, but maybe I save all that for a chapter in my book.
We consider our Nanny part of our family and I would move the heavens and earth for her if I could. She doesn’t need me to fight for her. She can and does absolutely take care of herself, but we are all in this world together and god dammit I am not okay with the way things go down sometimes.
She told me when we first moved to our new home that she got some side eye at the Starbucks. I WILL NAIL YOUR ASS TO THE FLOOR IF I EVER SEE THAT SHIT.
Here’s the thing. We see different colors. You can act like you don’t see color, but you do. WE ALL DO. And that’s okay. Hell, it’s magnificent.
We all should be celebrated for our colors, our diversity, our heritage and our contributions to our world and society.
The problem is that racism still definitely exists. ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY EXISTS. I am not talking about one particular event. I’m simply talking about everyday ordinary life.
Hell, WE JUST NOW GOT DIVERSITY EMOJIS.
It hurts my heart. It rips it to shreds that anyone could or would look at our incredibly beautiful, sweet, kind, gentle, brilliant, generous Nikki and think anything less than about her when she is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Fear is the base of so many problems. FEAR FEAR FEAR. And the media will force that on you and shove it down your throat and if you aren’t afraid yet, well turn on Fox news and there you go. (HINT – DO NOT TURN ON FOX NEWS PLEASE FOR THE LOVE)
I’m friends with and have family members who are African American. Brown. Beautifully brown. Now, if I were to think of anybody giving them grief I would fly into a rage that would have me arrested immediately. So I understand the anger. I understand the instinct to TEAR SHIT UP. I’m not saying it’s right, but I understand it. Not on the level of someone who is experiencing it first hand, mind you.
I went to an event a couple months ago, a book reading/signing, for Issa Rae. One of my dearest friends – Samantha Irby – was opening for her, and I try to get out to support Sam every chance I get because that is what we do. Samantha and I have a relationship that is at once similar because of somewhat shared experiences on some level and yet we are so different that we are almost entirely opposite. And yet we click. We absolutely compliment each other. We get together once or twice a month and have dinner and just dish. She likes that I have a foul mouth even though I’m mostly sweetness and light these days. She is the salty to my sweet. We confide in each other about everything and I’m so very grateful for our friendship. To say I am proud of Sam and the work she does is one thing. But to say I’m proud of her and the person she is and strives to be is another level of pride and gratitude. And I know she feels the same about me. We both want to be better. Even though we may fight it every step of the way. She also helps me with my lipgloss game. Her writing and what she shares of her own human experience are unlike anything you’ve ever read in your life. She is a treasure to say the least.
Anyway, I went to this book event because I am a literary fangirl, and when I walked in, it was a sea of beautiful, hip, smart, kind brown people. Now not for one second did I feel like I was unwelcome or questioned for being there. I will never forget that night for many reasons. One of which was that I got to meet some of my favorite writers and women. These women, man. They are incredible. I met Luvvie and thanked her for sharing so much and told her I learn from her every day BECAUSE I DO. She shares her experience strength and hope in a way that I was not privvy to for a long time because I didn’t know. But once you do know, you cannot turn a blind eye. Your conscience SHOULD compel you to learn more, to listen more, to respect more, to do more, to be more.
I am so thankful these women share their voices with us and we need to listen. It is important.
You know what my kids know about racism? NOTHING. But when it ever does come up you can bet we will talk about it. Because it is important.
You know what my kids say about their Nikki?
“Didi beeboop outside?”
“Me wuv Didi. Me miss Didi.”
That’s it. That’s all they care about. Didi. Their beautiful Didi who takes care of them and tickles them and sings with them and bathes them and teaches them and dances with them and paints and draws with them and protects them and is as close to their lips and desires as MAMA DADA. She is as much a friend to us as a caregiver. She is vital to our lives in every way and I love my people fiercely. Sometimes in the morning when I’m saying, “I love you” to my kids one last time, it sometimes slips out, “I love you Nikki” and we laugh but we also know it’s true. We love Nikki. And we know she loves us.
It is good to talk about this. It is important to talk about this. Racism exists. And the way we can help get rid of it is by talking about it calmly and with compassion and understanding. Teaching our kids that we love everybody the same no matter what their skin color. Everybody is equally worthy.
We need to keep talking about this. All of this. We need to realize that most of us are on the same side here and just want peace and love and acceptance for who we are. Gentle education and understanding produces such greater results than barrelling down fully cocked with a hammer of hate. No matter what side you are on.
There is always room for growth. For all of us. When we stop being open to growth and change, we are doomed.
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