By CiKeithia Pugh
Erin clearly knows when to maximize those moments when I make that afternoon call. I’ve described them before in previous blog posts. They are usually late afternoon after a long and draining week. After a week, hell let’s be honest the whole month, of fielding whiteness I found myself at the point where I needed to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper.
I am in white spaces a lot, and I get asked all sorts of questions by white people. Most of the questions are benign but there are some questions or statements where I want to say “Did your brain allow you to say that? The filter between your brain and mouth is too porous at the moment.” I get it, I’m your safe Brown person, but here’s a question for you – can you handle my truth? This is not a how-to manual, that’s your work, I’m giving you some unfiltered thoughts.
Too often I’ll be in a meeting and someone will speak glowingly about their project and how it is doing great things. I’ll ask, “so how do you know it is doing great things? For whom is it doing great things?” The room gets quiet and someone mumbles an answer, cause the truth is it isn’t doing great things for BIPOCs, it probably isn’t reaching people of color. Then someone will say “Can you introduce me to Bilan/Mohamed/Omar/
Maria/Lauren/Nguyen/Heidi?” No, I will not introduce you to other brown and black people. Do your own work!
Relationships matter so when you ask me to connect you to others in my community to save your time, the answer will almost always be no. I’m also not willing to put my credibility on the line for someone I don’t know or trust. It has taken me years to build these relationships and these relationships are something I value. You should value relationships too and do your own work to build them.
Stop asking for data and take me at my word. You know the disparities exist, you choose not to see them. My lived experience is all the receipts you need in order to understand. I don’t ask you as a white person for data on your over-privileged life. “Please show data on how many times you felt safe walking through a grocery store,” or “Please show me the data on how you’re oppressed, I’ll compare it to my list and we can compare and contrast,” or “Show me the data on how many white kids from your neighborhood are expected to graduate from high school?”
Ask Yourself Do you REALLY Want to Know My Truth
What did you expect? Did you expect me to give you credit for asking for data? Did you expect me to be excited about wanting to introduce you to my Black friends? Did you expect to hear a yes, but I said no and now you don’t know what to do with those feelings. I will give you credit, this is, after all, an opt-in conversation, but you don’t think I am going to center whiteness do you?
My job in these conversations is to not make you comfortable. My job is to push, spark thought and hopefully inspire commitments to action. Comfortability is what got you here. It’s time to experience the discomfort. Everything I know I learned about discomfort I learned from sitting in your spaces. It is ok for you to feel that same sense of discomfort I feel when I sit in your space. Take those feelings of anger, annoyance, frustration, loss, and confusion and process them. Most emotions only last 90-seconds so use that 90-seconds to figure out if you really want to know my truth.
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