What I know about BIPOCs


Artwork of postcards from Amplifer Art campaign We the Fture, http://www.amplifer.org

A while ago I wrote a post called 25 things I know about white people. It was a list of thoughts, or as one white person called them ‘assumptions’, about white people. It was also a post that oversimplified thoughts. At the risk of doing the same with my BIPOC relations, here goes another list this time with things I know about BIPOCs. These are oversimplifications and general thoughts that sometimes apply and there are nuances not explored in all of them.

  1. We are diverse. There is a huge breadth and depth to the BIPOC community, yet we are often lumped together and counted as one or maybe if generous several different people. “We have a Latinx, a Black person, and someone from the Native community – we’re good.” Or “Our CEO is a person of color,” implying the organization is diverse and therefore has racially equitable practices.
  2. BIPOCs suffer from racism, some BIPOCs more than others, but we all experience the negative effects of race and racism at some point in our lives or ongoing.
  3. We sometimes agree with each other and sometimes we don’t agree with each other. In being diverse we are also allowed to have different thoughts and not always agree.
  4. We have rich histories, rich communities, and a richness that we value even if it isn’t measured in monetary wealth.
  5. Our histories and migration stories to the West include violence done to us, exploitation, and oppression many times traced back to white people or privilege.
  6. Our histories also include success and greatness that shouldn’t be overshadowed. BIPOCs should be able to control our own stories and narratives. How many books or articles have you read by authors of color?
  7. Many Indigenous and other POCs have had their languages stolen or lost through assimilation.
  8. Many BIPOC languages and cultures are rich and adaptive that should be more valued than it is.
  9. We have etiquette and community norms. A while ago I saw a social media post asking for formal wear for an ‘etiquette’ dinner an org was hosting for students of color. These students of color have their own etiquette, the event host subtly implied that white people etiquette is more valued than their cultural etiquette. If you came to dinner with my friends and family would you know how to behave? We have our own BIPOC etiquette, just as valuable as white people etiquette.
  10. Many BIPOCs are seen as perpetual or “always a foreigner.” My family has been in the US for multiple generations yet my looking Japanese/Asian marks me as less American than white people. Pre-Trump I was walking with my Native American elder friend and someone yelled “Go home.” He chuckled and said, “I’m more home than you! I was here first.” Always a foreigner in his own land.
  11. Within BIPOC communities we have our own stuff to work through.
  12. Solving our own problems take herculean efforts. We fight for recognition, we fight for resources, we code-switch to gain access, we play the game and work hard to be taken over by the system, we answer to systems and our own people. All of this for self-determination and the right to fix what others messed up.
  13. When we solve our own problems our results are often different and our processes look different.
  14. BIPOCs are over and under-represented in systems, data, and different spaces. I’m not going to unpack this, sit with this one and think about it. Maybe at a later time I’ll write a post about this phenomenon.
  15. BIPOCs grapple with race just as much as white people, but we experience it differently and learn about race differently. “But race is the child of racism, not the father.” Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me.
  16. We are masters at codeswitching.
  17. We have to learn. Just being BIPOC doesn’t mean we’re woke and social justice warriors. I still have to learn about other people’s experiences especially with my Black and Brown relations, learn about gender, disability, immigration, and other people’s experiences. By being BIPOCs we’re sometimes held to higher standards related to social justice issues. I know I’ve done this to other BIPOCs.
  18. We sometimes get praised for the bare minimum and held to low standards. Alternatively, we are sometimes expected to outperform to receive the same privileges as white people.
  19. Our existence is a disruption and threat to systems of white nationalism.
  20. As BIPOCs we’re allowed to disengage. We’re not here to serve the dominant system and sometimes we just want to chillax.
  21. We feel a sense of community with each other. I know when I see colleagues of color I relate differently than I do in dominant culture spaces.
  22. Our foods are delicious.

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