I’ve been on Netflix for the last half an hour looking for something to entertain me. My mind feels a bit fuzzy and I’m genuinely bored with nothing to do tonight. I finally land on Parts Unknown. I’d finish the last episode I was watching but my gut gives a jolt and I can’t bring myself to hit play. Not yet. It’s been two weeks since Anthony Bourdain passed and something about watching anything related to him still bugs me. Somehow, it still hurts.
As a person of color, I’ve had the unfortunate instances of running into other people of color that spew ignorance and bigotry.
One of those such situations occurred today.
Please don’t misunderstand me, racism, discrimination and bigotry exist everywhere and any place among any community. We tend to read about it, see it, experience it or think about it in terms of white entitlement and white supremacy. As a Latina of African descent living and daring to even breathe in the American South, I know that exists, I’ve felt it. I’ve been called those opprobrious racial slurs and have experienced first hand those microaggressions from white folks.
Somehow that foolishness and buffoonery is even worse and somehow hurts more from people of my own background. From people who hold the status of minority with me. It’s kind of like it’s one thing when other children act like jerks but Christ is it extra shameful when it’s your own children you have to answer for. It almost feels like a direct representation of you.
So today, when someone I’ve known for decades, who shares my culture tells me, “Chinese people are naturally smarter than everyone else. It’s in their culture, education and just their brains are smarter. These people are scientifically more intelligent.” I feel personally ashamed.
Here’s the sad part about the above statement: when people say stuff like this, they’re serious. I rarely hear this type of nonsense screamed or said maliciously. They truly believe this and say it as calmly and plainly as if they just asked you how your day is going.
Here’s the next sad part about this: as a person of color not only have they swallowed this BS but they must believe it about themselves. They must find themselves so incredibly inferior. They aren’t Asian and they aren’t white, so how far down the totem pole of race and ethnicity mixed with intelligence do they find themselves at? How much value do they put in others that they must consider racially superior and how often do they cast aside those of their own racial and ethnic background? How often do they cast themselves aside?
I know many people like this person. They aren’t alone. They take this American bred, institutionalized racism and they believe it. They swallow it and then regurgitate it.
Either they’ve forgotten or more than likely don’t even know that scientific racism was and is a thing. That, for example, it excused and encouraged the genocide and enslavement of millions of black Africans throughout the Americas and Europe. That scientists such as Samuel Morton (commonly referred to as the father of race science) believed that the size of a person’s skull told us what race they belonged to and what that said about their scope of intelligence (in case you haven’t guessed it, whites were at the top, certain types of Asians were right beneath them and at the bottom, blacks).
Here are the many problems with this person’s mindset.
- They must think me stupid even though I’m a black Latina with three degrees and whose next step in life is to pursue a PhD. Scratch that, all non-Chinese, POC with PhD’s and doctorates must be dumb as hell. That PhD must be fake.
- They must find themselves incredibly stupid as well.
- While we are at it, I’m sure they consider their entire community dumb as a box of bricks.
- How does this explain the existence of illiterate Chinese adults? Better yet how does this explain how any dumb white person exists or intelligent black person?
- How does this person support this mentality every day among their own communities?
- Do they realize they’ve probably passed this down to their children who might pass it on to their children, creating and perpetuating generational bigotry that in the long run feeds white supremacy?
- Do they know that these types of “positive” stereotypes hurt not just those they are “complimenting” but in turn, is an insult to themselves?
It’s times like these where I’ve had to catch myself and stop whatever bad attitude was bubbling up to the surface or losing my ish on these people. I have the choice to either ignore them, start an argument or educate them to the best of my abilities. This choice is never easy, is always uncomfortable and often times mentally exhausting.
I try to pick and choose my battles, even when it comes to the subject of racism and discrimination because it shouldn’t be my job to educate every ignorant individual that steps my way. More importantly it truly drains me and when I say that, it’s because you wouldn’t believe the amount of foolishness that comes across my path from both POC and white folks. We all hate that racism exists but so many times we sustain it, give it life so that it may poison others.
I know I’ve said some things in the past that were racially insensitive. I think we all have. I also think we all should be open enough in our lives to accept when we’ve said or thought something we shouldn’t have, accept when others bring it to our attention but more importantly have the humility and courage to correct our mistake and change our mindset. I’m not sure if we can ever fully eradicate racism. At least not entirely but I do think we are capable of reaching beyond the common and lazy stereotypes we’ve come to accept. Not only is this a challenge to ourselves to be better but we can challenge others to expand their minds and throw out all the things that won’t allow us to grow, mature, and understand one another.
So, I’m done with school. All my assignments are turned in and I never have to look at another piece of homework again. This Master’s degree should equal a flood of jobs my way right? HAHA, yeah, no. That’s what they used to tell me in elementary school, and then in middle and finally in high school. “You’re going to go to college and you’re going to get a great job.” Clearly all of my teachers lied to me and they should be in charge of paying back my student loans.
Right now, I’m sporting what my mom would call a pajon. Big, fluffy, frizzy, curly hair. It has no rhyme or reason, it does what it wants to do. My hair has been the topic of many discussions and arguments in my life and in my family. To make it very clear to you guys, curly and natural hair is a big HELL NO in Dominican culture.
Countdown to May 4, 2018: Graduation day.
Three hard years and many mental breaks in between and I am finally about to have my Master’s in hand.
Coño, now what?