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December 1, 2016

Take my Hand: How to Combat Racism.

See if you can pick out Lebron’s subtle political statement:

~Katrina Maxwell

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large scale revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” ~ Jim Morrison 

We all woke up to a new world Nov 9, 2016. Except that “we” all didn’t. Many have been awake in this place for a very long time.

The photo above was taken on a trip to Jamaica. Marvin, pictured, was in charge of the boats. He was hilarious and fun (we were having a contest to see who could look more intimidating. Clearly I won.) I came back and posted a lot of photos of the trip not even giving it a second thought.

And then I went out with friends in my town and heard their comments

“Saw your pictures. Looked fun! You haven’t been with a black guy have you?”

Did he just say that?

My mind is racing. What do you tackle first, the sexism or the racism?

Why? Just because you saw a photo of me with any man, does that mean I slept with them?

If I did, what business is it of yours?

If he is black why does that make any difference? It wasn’t just the annoying classic joke of bigger assets. There was something much deeper

I freeze for a second and then I tell him exactly what I think and kindly but firmly call it out.

Just joking. I stay silent and he’s gone.

Then I justify it: I guess he was just kidding right? He’s overall a nice person. I’m sure he didn’t mean that to be as horrible as it sounded. 

Sadly that wasn’t the only comment of that nature I received, and sadly my mind wasn’t prepared enough to know what to say in the moment.

I hear stories in my own community of requests from parents to move their children out of classrooms or schools with too many “brown children”; I hear stories of children getting treated differently by teachers because of the color of their skin. 

I recently saw a girl of color on Pantsuit Nation (cause I’m all over that sh*t and currently wearing my safety pin) post a beautiful message regarding her experience as a black woman in America. In her message, she said that she can’t hold our hands. It was very loving and meant we have to look inward at ourselves, and that she can’t do this for us.

She is absolutely correct.

But, please hold my hand. Reach out, hold it, and don’t let go.

I don’t want you to make it better for me or take away any “guilt”. I want to understand so I can do better. The self reflection is my own, but I could use your hand.

I feel very lucky to have a close black friend who holds my hand. He offers enlightenment on these issues while I like to think I offer entertainment, so it’s a win-win really.

“Aha!” I message him—“I think I understand something…

Feeling quite proud of myself that maybe I learned something, I hit send.

Waiting. Waiting. Uh-oh, he’s going to laugh at me.

Then, laughter.

Damn it! I missed it.

“You’re warmer, Kat. Read your history. “

I think I see it. I type.

“Am I warmer?”

He laughs again, “A little. We’ll talk.”

Keep trying. Keep talking. Keep laughing. Keep reaching out to hold someone’s hand.

Practice paying attention to racism and sexism in yourself and in your community. Practice breathing, smiling, listening, and then speaking up. 

~

Author: Katrina Maxwell

Image: Author’s own.

Editor: Erin Lawson 

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