When my dolls did not match what I saw in the mirror, I heard you.
When I steel myself to meet a partner’s parents, already resigned to not being accepted, I hear you.
When I check the experiences of POC (people of colour) before traveling, I hear you.
And when the world continues to whisper that I was born being “not enough,” I hear you more than I wish to.
I hear you the most loudly though, when the world is kinder to me because of my colour.
When my ambiguous features encourage compliments about being “exotic,” or “foreign,” or even “tanned Caucasian.”
When my hair, my accent, my me-ness is seen as better because it is “whiter.” As if whiteness is the benchmark, and I am lucky enough to be just a little bit closer to reaching it.
When I barely noticed the intrusion of prejudiced rules about hairstyles in school, because my own strands easily conformed.
When I knew that I could tame my blackness and that life would be just a bit easier.
Every time that I have had the privilege—the choice—of ignoring the very protests trying to fight for my dignity and for the worth that we should all have been born with, but weren’t.
I hear you.
Yet, for all the times that the world has judged me, in either direction, I will not feel bad. For I am a collection of everything that has made me me, and I will no longer be shamed into trying to fit into the narrow lining of what society said I should be.
I know that racial prejudice is one aspect of bias amongst hundreds of others, for hundreds of reasons, coming from hundreds of sources. Give us any choice, and the masses will make it clear which one is “better.” It all has its influence on the shape that we take on.
We are all in between, so we should not feel the need to defend the reality that has shaped us whatever shades our skins. Our experiences as related to our colouring need no defending, and they certainly will not be changed by pretending that our biases in either direction are not there.
Right now though, right here, we are not talking about all the other hardships that humanity has endured. Those are important, and so is this. Right now, we’re talking about this one thing that affects all other things.
Racism is not a new phenomenon, and it has had life-and-death implications for as long as it has had its hold over our lives. The truth is that this is not going to go away, so we need to treat it as the powerful, far-reaching, and pervasive entity that it truly is in our lives.
In whatever arena people of colour find themselves in, some judgement is being made. Sometimes it’s harmless—like the passive recognition of different coloured paints residing in the same box. Maybe the preference for one or another shade will barely influence anything at all. Maybe.
Often though, it is not harmless, whether the bias is subconscious or not. All too often, particular colours will be removed from the box completely. They might be separated. They might be discarded. They might be destroyed altogether.
Please, allow this fight to have its moment, to have the limelight, to carve out its space—the space that all of us, as humans, need to exist just as we are.
The fact is that privilege is not just something we are born with; it is also something we use. It is a tool, and movements like this allow us to use it to benefit more than just ourselves.
If at any point we are able to decide whether to engage with something, know that it is because we have the privilege of it not being right outside our door.
Know that for many there isn’t a door, or a window, or even a line separating them from engagement. Confrontation is right there, staring, waiting to see whether their response will be flight or fight—daring them to submit.
It is time that we take responsibility for ourselves, along with the world that we have created. Whether we meant to or not.
To the world: do not dare proclaim that white privilege does not exist, because my light privilege definitely does. If it feels like people are shouting, it is because they are trying to finally be heard. Please have the awareness not to defend with “all lives matter,” when that is exactly what we are asking for—for all lives to matter.
And to those who have always been on the frontlines, I hear you. I see you. I stand with you, in my blackness, and in my whiteness.