I finally have a guest blog. Although, she is not one of the first people I asked to do a guest blog, she is the first one who actually did it. Hopefully The White Girl will spur my others to do their guest blog. But, The White Girl is a colleague of mine at ITC. So, take what she has to offer, and feel free to be blunt and candid in the comments.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL
On Friday, I had an existential crisis. It crept up on me, attacking me where I was least expecting it. It didn’t happen in one of the classroom of the historically black seminary where I am one of the handful of white people who attend, and the fewer who live on campus. Nor did it happen during one of the many conversations that my friends and I engaged in at Applebee’s or clustered into one of our apartments. Instead, it came where one might think I fit the most…around white people. I was at work, a small business that employs three people, when one of my co-workers interrupted my train of thought. Reading through the headlines White Co-Worker had come across a story about a new black news network. I didn’t get all the details, but I believe it was about JC Watts, who is preparing to launch a 24-hour Black television network to provide news aimed at an African-American audience.
As White Co-Worker read this headline aloud for me my first thought was, “good.” It seems obvious to me that the media is biased toward negative coverage of all things Black; such a network would provide an alternative. Then I picked up the tone in his voice and realized that he was angry. His reasons ran the typical gamut of those who haven’t had to think about what its like not to be in the majority. “If I had a white news network they would be upset…how can they have a black one?” My suggestion that everything is white news network was summarily dismissed. The issue quickly widened from just the news network to other areas where being non-white was highlighted…Black Pride in Atlanta, Black Heritage events, etc. Still trying to prove my point about the dominance of white culture I asked White Co-Worker, who is gay, how he would feel if I had straight pride week? This took him aback, but he claimed it would be ok. His tone wasn’t as strong.
We ended up dropping the conversation, but as I drove home it hit me…the people who look like me, don’t get me. Over the past two years, I have had the honor of gaining a perspective from my colleagues that most white people never have the chance to attain. I treasure this experience and am thankful to all the people who have accepted me for who I am, who dared to stop censoring themselves around me and who constantly provoke me to deeper thought. Just for a minute, though, I wanted to give it all back. Just as it was impossible to explain my position to White Co-Worker, I know my family and many of my white friends will not understand these newfound opinions and positions of mine; may no longer understand me. Perhaps for the first time since I set foot in Georgia this realization hit home and I felt ostracized from “my own people,” yet not really a part of any other.
As I poured out this newfound woe to my boyfriend over salad at Jason’s Deli he laughed and pointed out that it was I who ostracized myself. He has a point, but some part of me didn’t realize just how complete this process of learning another perspective would be, or how much it would change me. As highlighted by previous Uppity Negro posts, as a white person I had the privilege to not think about other points of view. I did not realize how great the differences are between the America that I knew and the America that many of my colleagues (of all ages) have experienced. Now I know, though, and there is no going back, even if I wanted to. The question for me is how to bring the perspective that I have gained back to the white community, even when its not something they want to hear. I might also get some code-switching lessons from The Uppity Negro.