Happy New Year! It’s that time of year to set goals, pick up old hobbies and strive to do better. Maybe you’re like me and, along with your own personal goals, you have something you’d like to see folks either start or stop doing.
So what exactly would I like to see from people in 2020? Well there’s plenty, but for the sake of this blog post I’ll keep it all on theme – I need y’all to stop using your marginalized friends, family and acquaintances as some sort of force field that prevents you from being racist, homophobic and all the other ists, isms and phobias.
What do I mean?
Picture this, you’re out with friends eating, drinking and generally having a good time. There’s lots of laughter, playful taunting and sporadic bursts of political commentary. One of your friends, who we’ll call Tom, declares that he has an “insert race, sexual orientation, gender identity” friend before he says something mad problematic. Just in case you had anyyyy doubt, he again reminds you that he can’t be “racist, phobic, etc” because that one friend he has, who he was gracious enough to befriend despite their blackness, gayness or whatever, cancels out every single bit of prejudice he has, right?
Absolutely fucking not.
Toms microaggressions, instilled racism and prejudices didn’t just magically go away when he acquired his hew token piece, ahem I meant friend. 🙃He’s just convinced himself that this friend is “one of the good ones.”
And honestly, we need to talk about the “one of the good ones” phrase too. Maybe you’ve heard it phrased as “ you’re not like the others” or “you’re (insert marginalization) on the outside but you’re white/straight, etc on the inside haha.” I promise you that there is nothing at all positive to take away from these statements and if your “friend” is like me, they’re probably about to cuss you out.
Look, I’ve had more than a few white friends ( ex-friends because these friendships obviously did not last long after this) in my life that have told me that I was one of the good ones or that I wasn’t like other Blacks. In almost every single job I’ve had in my adult life, I’ve also had coworkers casually mention how different I was than those other Black people they know and they always, ALWAYS beam when they say it, as if that’s some sort of badge of honor. It ain’t.
I promise you that after I turn off my work voice, stop code-switching and putting on this facade that Black folks and POC so often have to put on in the workforce, I’m just like “those Blacks” that you turn your nose up at. These type of othering statements, aimed at giving praise are incredibly common for marginalized groups to experience and in my opinion, stem from the fact that people have preconceived notions about certain groups- negative notions that until they find someone that they like, enforce the need to think of them as somehow bad or less than.
You sometimes see this “special case” othering sentiment in those who have mixed children or family members. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “my kids are mixed I can’t be racist” I’d be damn rich, okay? And just so you know, every time I’ve seen someone write or say it, they are 100% without a doubt still racist as hell. Like Tom, who prefaced his questionable commentary with “but I have (add group of your choice) friends,” parents who say this usually follow-up with the most trash ass stereotypes and bold racism. But have them tell it, they love their kids, so that cancels out the vitriol that is about to spew so confidently from their mouths.
Similarly, if I hear another Karen, Sharon or Barbara exclaim that “racism will go away if we just have more mixed babies” I might actually scream. It’s no surprise that mixed-race children/adults often endure years of familial microaggressions that can contribute to negative feelings of self, identity confusion, depression and anxiety. And real talk, when trying to solve this problem – getting rid of the disenfranchised race by mixing it up, instead of, I don’t know, dealing with the actual problem – i.e.racism, ain’t the way to go. Colorblindness, intentional dismissiveness and the like never has and never will be the answer.
In truth, I guess what I actually want from people, is to address head-on their own prejudices and to stop causing long-lasting harm to those they claim to love, who happen to be marginalized. In 2020, I need y’all to be better, beloveds.