One of the scariest things I can do is tell someone I care about that they are being problematic. By problematic, I mean things like: racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sexist, fatphobic, etc.
When I have to come to someone, I rehearse my words. I try to find the most polite way to bring it up. And it doesn’t matter how much I practice, it almost always ends the same. It’s me “overreacting”. It’s me being racist against THEM. It’s me not being colorblind enough. And on and on and on.
People, this isn’t fun for me. This doesn’t make me feel special. No one congratulates me. In fact, I lose more friends by speaking up than I would by suffering in silence. I don’t get a kick out of this. Maybe because I’m laughing, people think this is my hobby or something. I laugh because I’m just tired of crying over it. I’m tired of screaming. Laughter helps numb the pain of being bombarded with bigotry. I’m just want the people around me to care about my mental health and physical safety.
Because asking me not to talk about my experiences is silencing. Asking me to talk about my abuse ONLY in ways that make THEM feel good… is silencing. And telling me to be quiet hurts. IT HURTS ME. How can you really be MY friend when there are pieces of my life that make you uncomfortable? Pieces of my life that are intricately tied to my identity? That’s like being my friend but wanting to ignore my right arm.
If you have a Black friend who never discusses Blackness with you… ya’ll ain’t friends. Real talk. Because that is the lens of my entire life experience. I see you through those glasses. And whether you admit it or not, you see me as a Black person first. I have NEVER in my ENTIRE LIFE met someone who I felt was actually colorblind in terms of racial issues. IT DOES NOT EXIST. Stop saying it.
Especially when most of the problematic things could be broken down to, “It hurts my feelings when you say/do this. Please use another word.” For someone to say, “No, I’ll do what I want.”
How am I supposed to feel about where I stand in the scheme of things? Saying a word means more than hurting my feelings? I’m not allowed to be offended but YOU are allowed be offended THAT I was offended? How did this get to be about YOUR feelings? What about me?
You can’t JUMP to the kumbayah part of the race conversation if you refuse to get your hands dirty. If you refuse to consider what you may/may not do to perpetuate the problem. And if I say something you are doing is wrong (no matter WHAT it is) and you won’t pause for one beat and think about it… then what good are you to me?