I am Bi-Racial. Half caucasian. Half Mexican.
I want to say first that I absolutely do not know the first hand struggles of being a black woman or man in a racist country. I have however had my own experiences, my whole life, and therefore I can and will always empathize and stand with those who are oppressed because of the color of their skin.
We lived in a small town, and the high school I attended was made up of 400 or so teenagers. In my entire education I was one of perhaps 10 (maybe) students who were not 100% caucasian. When I was entering High School I still rode the bus and dealt with two girls who were the nastiest mean girls you could find in that small town. That year was the first time anyone ever used a racial slur towards me.
"You’re such an oreo," she jeered. I had no idea what it meant until a few weeks later.
"Definition: To much of the public, an Oreo is simply a black cookie sandwich with white cream filling. In the African-American community, however, an Oreo is used as a racial slur to insult blacks who “act white” or identify as such. The racial name Oreo is controversial because many blacks recount being called the racial term for doing well in school or speaking proper English, not because they didn’t identify as black. In short, these African Americans were singled out as sellouts simply for excelling academically and in other areas. Many blacks find this term hurtful, for they are proud of their African-American heritage.”
For one, the mean girl didn’t actually have her facts straight about myself in particular. But the intent was there. And for the first time in my life I felt the stab of cruelty that is racism. I won’t ever forget it.
Later in my life I dated a man for half a decade who was black. We traveled an enormous amount. Once, in the beginning of the adventures, he explained to me why he liked to wear the simplest clothes as possible and leave early for the airport.
"I get stopped every time. For my name and for my skin." He told me.
I paid attention. Every time.
A couple years ago I took a long visit to my father’s childhood home in San Jose, CA. I stood on the plot where my great grandparent’s once lived. I drove past the old house that my grandparent’s raised their six children in. And my uncle drove me around to some of the places that still exist and told me stories from the past.
One in particular was about my grandfather who stood up with other non white citizens and fought for their rights to use the public library. He won.
I’ve heard a lot of things from people, who truly don’t mean any harm, about racism or the gentrification of Portland. But the most dangerous statement that continues to stand out is this one,
"I just don’t look at people and see the color of their skin."
If you don’t see my skin color. You are not empathizing with the struggles that are my family’s, my friends’, or mine. If you do not see skin color, you refuse to acknowledge that racism is alive and thriving in our country. ALIVE AND WELL.
Just look at Ferguson.
Just look at New York.
Just look here at Portland.
Just look at the ignorance sprawled across social media by white people just “not understanding the issue;” or just plain out keeping silent.
This is not a time for silence.
If we want reconciliation we need recognition that this is REAL.
If we want peace, we have to talk about it.
If we want justice, we all need to OPEN OUR EYES.
Don’t be ignorant.
Don’t be apathetic.
Because truly, those two things might be more dangerous than the racism itself.
Solidarity comes from empathy and understanding of struggle. Because I hesitate to say anymore this is the land of the “free” when not enough seem interested in maintaining that for all humans that reside here.