Growing up as a Congolese immigrant in South Africa, life wasn’t easy. People need to confront their xenophobia as much as they need to confront their racism (that’s a story for another day). For a long time I remember thinking ‘wow they like me,’ whenever a white person would say ‘you’re not like other black people.’ You receive that as a badge of honour, a compliment. You fool yourself into thinking that in spite of your race, you’re accepted, you’re valued.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that we can only fix this world together, we can’t do it divided. I cannot emphasize that enough. We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The, ‘If it’s your problem, then it’s not mine; it’s a woman’s problem; it’s a black people problem; it’s a poor people problem.’ I mean, how many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other races, sexes, religions? Show of hands. Well, they want to break bread with you, right? They like you? Well, then this is their problem too. So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jr.s and Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up.Rihanna
Now I’m older and I finally see it. I finally get it. The subtle ways that we’re pitted against each other. As if it’s a competition to see which black person is most worthy of being alive, of breathing. It is not lost on me that I am married to a white man and regardless of how we view our children, there are people in this world that will try to break them. It is my duty to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The anxiety has felt overwhelming at times, crippling even. But I am reminded that we have to be proactive, using whatever platform we have regardless of how big or small it is. Engage in conversations that challenge your inner Pharisee. You know who that is right? The part of you that is secretly (and for some people openly) judgemental, the part of you that ‘doesn’t see colour’. The part of you that has for a long time never seen life through the lens of others who are different to you because ‘it isn’t your platform’. When a black friend/colleague or partner chooses to share with you the world through their lens, listen. Don’t try to justify certain actions or re-write THEIR experience/s. It is a dangerous AND ignorant assumption to make that because it hasn’t been the case for you, it isn’t the case at all.
Don’t wait for someone else to educate you, do the work. Pull up! ✊🏾 Here’s a resource I found on the web, for the non-black people in the room who are ready to do the work: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BRlF2_zhNe86SGgHa6-VlBO-QgirITwCTugSfKie5Fs/preview?pru=AAABcoTynOg*doiSCYsnnyftRjNy23Qzsw
I am as overwhelmed as I am numb. I’m tired emotionally and mentally. But still I will continue to rise.
You may shoot me with your words,Maya Angelou
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.