I’m writing this shortly after the events that took place on May 25, 2020. George Floyd, a 46-year old African-American was accused of using forged documents at a nearby deli. Derek Chauvin, a caucasian Minneapolis police officer handcuffed Floyd and knelt on his head for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Floyd was saying he couldn’t breathe, and yet, the officer continued to kneel on his neck until he died. It was horrifying to read about.
I was appalled by these events, but not shocked. The people that are saying they are shocked are clearly not privy to these incidents that have been happening for years. This is not shocking to me because nothing has fucking changed and I’m angry and tired of seeing these stories pop up in the news for about a week of coverage, only for absolutely nothing to change.
White people, you need to smarten up, check your privilege, and rather than become defensive, become an ally for the Black community. You can’t tell people to calm down or relax because people are still getting murdered for the color of their skin.
For the White people that might be scared to talk about these issues, I want to share my own story because I was not always aware of my prejudices…against myself.
I was born in the Bronx and am a woman of color. However, when I was eight, I moved to a town where I was the only colored person in my class. That was such a culture shock to me, and I’ll admit that I have 100% changed myself to fit White beauty standards. I saw the people that seemed to have it all, and wanted to hide my skin color as much as possible to fit into a community where looking a certain way made you popular, have a boyfriend and be able to purchase a $100 sweatshirt from Abercrombie and Fitch. Growing up, I never really saw minorities on TV or film being represented or having their happily ever after.
Along with what I was seeing in the media and my school, I was victim to backhanded racist comments and microaggressions all the time. Girls would ask why my hair wasn’t in braids or say “well you’re really pretty… for a Brown person.” I had one guy friend say: “Well, you’re really great and all, but I wouldn’t date anyone darker than me.”
And I let them. Because I wanted to desperately fit in so badly, that anytime people would say these comments, I felt instant shame. And as a result, I created an unhealthy relationship with my body, where I told myself: ‘Well you can at least be very skinny.’ That was my way of overcompensating. It wasn’t until college that I started to see my skin as beautiful, and it was thanks to going to a progressive university with all different types of races, skin colors and minorities.
I started becoming more aware of White privilege. I didn’t know there was a word to use when I’m in a room filled with White people and I’m the only minority. Or that assuming I had an arranged marriage and not a US citizen was WILDLY offensive. It was liberating to finally go to a school where being different was celebrated and not something to be hidden.
I started a radio show, wrote for my newspaper, and really learned to love the woman I was becoming. And then in 2016, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. By that time, I was editor in chief for my newspaper and I started using my voice to talk about race, transgender rights, and immigration. That girl was a complete 180 from the insecure person I was at 17. I’m not proud of the girl I used to be. I wasn’t an ally to my own race at the time because I thought being White would make my life easier. I am disgusted with the girl I used to be, but that doesn’t mean I can’t strive to be the woman I am today. I’ve learned to embrace my voice, educate myself, and have, as a result, become a stronger woman because of it.
Now yada yada, how does this correlate with the systematic racism today? As I’ve been reflecting, I’ve been sad, confused, and angry. But I also feel compelled to reiterate that I am an ally. If I could change, you can too. I was so off the mark years ago because of the childhood I grew up in. But it’s time to wake up and become an advocate. It’s never too late. I know it can be scary to feel like you might say the wrong thing. Hell, I probably did in this letter and I’m not even White, but if you remain silent, it’s only helping the oppressors win. We live in a world of racism. You can’t tell Black people or minorities how to feel at this time. But if you choose to say nothing, you’re only contributing to the blindness and ignorance that people seem to edge towards instead.