I’m Tired of Talking About Race, But I Have To.

| October 30, 2015 | 2 Comments
ralaenin at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/579286

ralaenin at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/579286

Ever since the death of Michael Brown, conversations of racism and micro-aggressions have been rampant, and I’m tired of it. I have shared my opinion of racism in the United States and I’m tired of repeating it, but it seems as if I have to. Not long ago, I was watching the finale of The Bachelor in Paradise with some friends, and during the “tell all” section, a woman named Cassandra began speaking. Cassandra, who has a son (from a man who happens to be Black), was talking about her new relationship with a man named Jonathan, who also happens to be Black. Because of this coincidence, one of my friends thought it appropriate to describe her as having “jungle fever”…JUNGLE FEVER! Are you kidding me? I sat there with my jaw dropped, staring at her. By describing interest in Black and Brown people as “jungle fever,” she was equating us with wild animals—monkeys. It implies that we are not as mentally sophisticated and can’t be considered human. It was a phrase I had never heard before, but the stereotypes it perpetuates were crystal clear to me. Why wasn’t it clear to her?

It is instances like these that remind me that the battle to create common ground is never over. Not long after that, I was denied access to a social function while my White counterparts were allowed in, despite the fact that I was the one who had been invited in the first place. I then called my dad, who is White, and told him how upset I was, but immediately his reaction was to tell me of the discrimination he faces as a White male. I was in shock. While I don’t deny society has come to avidly acknowledge the privilege of White males in this country and has more or less begun pushing back against that privilege, he had no idea the types of challenges I faced as a multi-racial female in America. My own father couldn’t understand my struggle. Rather he spewed back at me the typical White perspective I am continuously reminded of. But the thing is, the types of discrimination he and the rest of White America faces is nothing compared to the daily micro-aggressions relegated towards Black and Brown people. While his struggles may be real, he is part of the most powerful population in the world while I am part of the most oppressed—the colored female. As I had this conversation with my father, I realized that I had never really voiced this to him because I thought he should just understand. He’s my father, my own flesh and blood, and yet he cannot sympathize with the struggles I face in the slightest.

It’s so exhausting to have the same conversations over and over. We all feel this way about some topic at some point in our lives. Whether it is a serious topic like religion or race, or something lighter where you have to keep reminding your parents that you don’t like a certain food, repetition is boring and gets quite annoying. I’m tired of having to be the “spokesperson” for all Black and Brown people when I’m the only minority in the room. I’m tired of having to tell people what is and is not acceptable to say about race. And I’m tired of being used as a tool to educate the more privileged people, typically White, in the room.

For example, the “cross the line” exercise seen in Freedom Writers starring Hilary Swank has become a favorite exercise for employers, educators, and club organizers to use to bring common ground and understanding to a group of people. The activity consists of someone making statements that apply to different categories such as race, social and economic status, and safety. If something applies to you, depending on how the activity is organized, you raise your hand or take a step forward. The idea is that by giving people a visual representation of how these statements apply to others, people will become more aware of their privilege. Every single time I participate in this activity, though, I have a relatively good idea of where I will be standing. I know that the negative statements will apply to me more often than to the White people in the room, and that at the end of the activity most of the White people will mention how they are surprised by the differences. I am never surprised. I know that if it were not for the minorities taking part in the exercise, the activity would have no value. Because without them, who would the White people compare their privilege to?

As tired as I get being used as a tool for the education of the general public, hearing comments like “She has jungle fever! Haha” remind me that I have to say something. It’s hard, though, especially when you hear things like this from your friends. How do I address the issue of racism and discrimination in this country without making my friend feel attacked? Without being painted as the “angry Black woman”? While it is a difficult, and generally annoying, conversation to have, it is necessary. I really don’t know how I will address episodes like these in the future, because in the past I have remained silent. Despite my exhaustion from having these conversations, I am realizing more and more that I still have to keep going, because using terms like “jungle fever” is not okay.

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Category: Campus Culture, featured, Social Activism

Kayla Nguyen

About the Author ()

Kayla is a Senior studying Biological Anthropology and Arabic. She is from a small town in Wisconsin--her inspiration for coming to Boston. When she's not writing blog articles, she enjoys cooking, watching movies with giant bowls of popcorn, and considering going to the gym.

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