There is a racial shitstorm a brewing in this country whether you want to believe it or not. A clear line is being drawn and everyone is starting to line up on either side, taking a stand and making their beliefs known. And here I am, like a mixed girl on the playground with black kids on one side and white kids on the other. Calling to me. “Red Rover. Red Rover. Send Twyla on over!” Which side do I choose? I know which side, but not without losing some friends in the process.
Here’s a little backstory as to why this is a sad decision for me. From the moment I could talk, I was labeled as different by my extended black family and community. “Why she talk so proper?” “You talk like a white girl.” “You act white.” These statements perplexed me because in my mind I talked and acted like…Twyla. Anyone who knows me knows that I have NEVER been phony. It’s not in me. I just can’t pretend to be something I’m not.
Anyway, it was hard for me to be accepted by own people. I was teased for the way I spoke and bullied because I got good grades and liked to read. No, seriously. I literally had someone say “You get good grades and like to read. You act white.” Wow. What a way to insult our entire race in two sentences. And I know it wasn’t completely his fault. We are raised in a society where you are taught not to amount to much of anything. From people outside of our race and our very own. And if you decide to rise up to be more, you get picked on or beat up for it.
So the only people that were willing to accept me more often than not were white and Hispanic girls. If I wanted to listen to rock music, watch 90210 or My So-Called Life, or read bodice-ripper romance novels with Fabio on the cover, they didn’t care. For the most part, they let me be, well…ME.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great black friends in my life. One, in particular, was my girl Sharon that I met in college. She was an incredible woman and though we grew up in different neighborhoods, we just got each other. And I will miss her for the rest of my life, God rest her sweet and fierce soul.
Growing up in a neighborhood that was mixed with black and white, where the kids played in the street together in the summertime. Going to practically equally mixed schools of black, white, and Latino. And making a diverse group of friends in college and when I went to teach English in Japan. I’ve had a well-rounded life. I don’t believe any race is better than the next. I believe the world should be fair and equal, but not everyone sees things as I do.
When many whites grow up in predominantly white neighborhoods and practically all white schools. Blacks grow up in predominantly black neighborhoods and almost all black schools. And Latinos the same. Many only think of how to better their own. And that is great to help each other out, but that’s also what causes division and unfairness. Especially when one group holds the most power.
And this very thing is the reason for all the racial tension building in this country. When one group holds the power and mainly caters to their own, another group suffers for it and then becomes angry. But many white people are like the teacher’s pet in a classroom. No one wants to admit they’re the teacher’s pet. For one, that would mean admitting they’re getting preferential treatment and second, that they’d have to give it up if they do admit it. Hey, I was one of those kids, so I know.
So this is where I get frustrated and quite hurt by my white friends. Many of them love me for me and consider me a close friend. Someone that is there for them if they need a shoulder and vice versa. But that love I feel sometimes comes with conditions. Just so long as I don’t bring up injustices that I see against me or other blacks. Well, being black and my experiences as such is a part of me. Of who I am. And if I bring up things I see or get upset about, if you’re really my friend, you should actually listen and try to understand where I’m coming from. And understand that it doesn’t mean I’m attacking you personally.
It wasn’t until I started writing that I found black females much like me. To which, I am overjoyed. To finally find people who understand me on all sides, is an amazing thing at 30-something years old. Also, once I started writing was the first time I truly felt blocked from succeeding because of the color of my skin. Growing up my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And I believed them. But once I found what I wanted to do with my life, I had no idea how exclusive the publishing industry could actually be. Though that’s another post for another time.
So here I am now with two sets of friends from either side, almost for the first time in my life. And as racial tension rises in this country, now I’m found stuck in the middle. I’ve had great white friends all my life and now I have new great black friends. Some of my black friends are angry and rightly so though I’m just not the person that lets things bother me as much. I like being a happy person. I like living in my world of rainbows and unicorns. I let a lot of things roll off my back because otherwise I’d be angry all the time. But with the advent of the internet and social media, it’s harder to ignore. I can see injustices happening all over the world, instead of just my town. And when these injustices piss me off, I say something and finally voice my feelings. Now my white friends are quite loudly voicing their displeasure with me by their glaringly obvious silence.
So to my white friends…to admit that minority groups are being unfairly treated doesn’t make you any less white or turning against your own. It just lets others know you see the truth. If a friend you know and trust (ME!) tells you something isn’t right, they’re the best person to listen to, to get a new perspective on something that you may have never known otherwise. Maybe you can’t empathize with the Black Lives Matter protester shouting passionately at the news camera because you feel far removed from the situation. But surely you can empathize with one of your good friends that tells you of their struggles?
And to my black friends…Just because I may not voice my frustrations as loudly as others, doesn’t mean I’m any less black. I’ve just had friends of other races my whole life that treated me better than my own at times. So I’m not going to shout and rail at them. I am just trying to find a diplomatic way to get the other side to understand our plight.
No matter what, though, I will always be on the side of right. Equality. All-inclusiveness. And fairness. That is what’s right.