I’m not sure what prompted me to write the post below, but I did write it in December. Since it was the holidays it’s themed around Christmas, which my family celebrates, but the message is relevant to any time of the year. With the recent news stories about minorities unable to live without raising suspicion ;it reminded me of these words that I had written. And how if we strip away the labels we would begin to see people for who they truly are. It pains me that anyone has to validate their presence so that someone else can stop feeling uncomfortable. This isn’t a matter of safety, it’s a matter of disbelief and discomfort.
Sarah Braasch, the Yale graduate student who called the cops on another Yale graduate student Lolade Siyonbala ,after she fell asleep in a common area, was uncomfortable with a black student being in her living quarters. Unfortunately this was not the first time she had called the police because she suspected that a black student did not belong in the same place as she did.
Within the past few weeks, there have been several stories about minorities having to defend themselves when those around them feel any discomfort. It’ s an interesting paradox, because in all these situations, the minority has to defend their existence while they are feeling uncomfortable. We’re already perceived to be guilty based on the words or the opinion of a stranger.
Disclaimer: As you can see from my blog, I am African-American, but when you read the words below please read them as though you had no idea who wrote them.
It’s Christmas time and I’m getting ready to celebrate it with my family. I travel every year to Florida to be at my grandfather’s house. He’s 91. My mom is one of five girls whose family immigrated here in the 70s. I have 2 cousins ages 12 and 10. I live in New York City in a studio apartment in Brooklyn. I enjoy spending time with my friends, am involved in my church, and love binge-watching Netflix. I’m 28 years old, college-educated, and single. No kids. I work for a media agency full time and work part time as a facilitator for a coding school. I am passionate about many causes such as human trafficking and women’s rights. I am an only child. My parents got divorced when I was very young, and my mom raised me as a single parent. I only went to private school until I transferred colleges. I enjoy traveling and have been to Thailand, Europe, and Guyana within the last two years. I’ve had my heart broken like any 20 something year old and have bounced back. I want a tattoo and wanted to get one when I was in Thailand but was running low on Baht. I have a sweet tooth and like most people one of my resolutions is to lose weight. I love the holidays and my family exchanges presents on Christmas day after we have a traditional breakfast. Christmas Eve we go to Candlelight service at my aunt’s church.
Notice that I have not told you anything about where my mom’s family is from. I have not described my physical features in anyway. I could tell you that I’m average height for a woman, my hair is short to medium length,and I’ve been told I have a beautiful smile.
With the information I’ve given you, tell me what picture you’ve painted in your mind ? Am I black or am I white? Maybe I’m Hispanic. Maybe I’m mixed. I could be Irish, or African. English or Brazilian. These are labels. I never said if I was straight or gay. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the life that I’ve lived and the life that is yet to be lived.
When you look at someone, what do you see? Do you see color and begin to make snap judgments, or do you see a person? One of my favorite Christmas songs is ” My Grown Up Christmas List” ; the singer’s Christmas list consists of no more lives torn about by war. My hope is that we will discover the true meaning of Christmas and take this meaning with us throughout the year. It’s not in finding the perfect gift or having the best holiday outfit, but it’s about loving your fellow human as your own. Don’t’ look at the outside labels because labels just like on our clothing are man-made. But instead take the time to look at the person and discover what it is that you could learn from them. We might be all surprised to learn that our commonalities are greater than our differences.
Photo by Úrsula Madariaga from Pexels