I’ve grappled the last few days over my thoughts and feelings about what is happening in the world. Part of me feels like I have no right to speak out because I am privileged, although I am a minority because I’m “white-ish,” I have not dealt with an immediate gasp, or holding of a purse closer, or been outwardly called names.
It wasn’t until I partook on a 3-hour Zoom meeting where my peers and colleagues shared their experiences, where I realized, I’ve discriminated against, albeit not in the same manner that sadly continues to plague the world, but it made me feel the same way my peers felt: angry, sad, less than.
One of my colleagues kept saying, “Do the work on yourself before you come out and support.” And that honestly had the most impact on me. Do the work on yourself before you support it. I have spent the last 24 hours reflecting, internalizing, and getting very, very uncomfortable. I’ve run through memories over the last twenty years, trying to think of instances where I could have made a difference and whether or not I did, or I didn’t because I was afraid.
Then I thought back of when I was discriminated against, and I realized that I had brushed it off, as, “Oh, they don’t know any better,” or “They’re just ignorant.” A boyfriend’s stepmom said something about “Those people,” referring to Hispanics, forgetting that I too was, well Panamanian, and therefore Hispanic. I remember looking down and rolling my eyes with the thought, well, she’s an ignorant woman and doesn’t know any better.
Then I had a boyfriend who would call me “Consuela.” For those of you who aren’t familiar, Consuela is the housekeeper on “Family Guy,” and is known for having a thick Latin accent and saying, “No, no, no Lemon Pledge.” He even bought me Lemon Pledge thinking it was funny. Again, I brushed it off as he didn’t know any better.
I had a manager at work who labeled me “loud and emotional” because I was Latina. Now, I don’t want to go down a road of sexism, but he would never have called the men on our team those adjectives – those were reserved for the women on the team. But again, discriminatory against me due to my race and sex.
As I reflected on how those excuses of ignorance made me feel, I wholly understood how my peers feel. They are unjustly labeled. The anger and hurt and pain was something that I could understand. But let me be clear, I, in no way know what it’s like to walk into a store and be followed because of the color of my skin. Because: I am privileged. Simply for having white skin. I. am. Privileged.
I started to do research and educating myself to learn and absorb what has been happening in the last 400 years and how we can or what we can do to fix this never-ending issue. We are born and don’t know “hate” or “being scared.” Through time and years, we are conditioned to feel these things and see the world in a certain way.
I agree that we need to work on ourselves before we can support it. I started work and let me tell you. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not pleasant. But it’s nothing compared to being afraid of going to the store or walking down the street. It’s not the same as second-guessing accepting a role at a company where you feel you might be made to feel “less than.”
I have started the work on myself, and as I was educating myself, I donated to organizations that can help stop the spread of hate and lift our peers. We are humankind, after all – and need to be just that KIND. Treat others how you want to be treated. The golden rule needs to come back into play. It’s sad to me that in 2020 we’re still dealing with these issues. We must do better. We must do something. We must be compassionate and understanding. We must learn and empower others to speak their truth. We have to. It’s our duty to live in unity.