I have always strolled peacefully at the intersection of white and black, foreign and homegrown, poor and prosperous. I have heard about many injustices but experienced few. So like you, I usually scroll through my news feed glancing over lives lost, vocalized racism, masked xenophobia and just plain bigotry. I usually feel sad but somewhat detached from that reality, so I shrug and move on to the puppy videos. But not today.
Today, I cried. I saw the video of Philando Castile bleeding in front of his girlfriend, a child, a cop, and a camera phone. I read about the protests, police officers getting shot and I felt extreme sadness. But what took me over the edge to tears were the excusatory comments from my “friended”, the news headlines, the opportunistic political advances and above all, my own inaction.
I thought about posting #blacklivesmatter on my feed, but I wondered if people would think I was playing victim. You see, I am a foreign-born-woman-of-mixed-race. My black father was a policeman, who was murdered by a white guy.
Despite that drama, I have always lived in this perpetual middle of the road that has shielded me from extremes. I am black enough to have been made fun of for my hair and to prevent closet-racist friends from using slurs in my presence, but not too black to be stopped and frisked for no reason, to be thrown in jail for minor violations or to be shot in my car. I am foreign enough to have worked long hours at various undesirable jobs for minimum wage and will probably forever mess up my prepositions, but I am not too foreign to make people anxious when I board a plane or to be called a terrorist because of the way I dress or the language I speak. I am poor enough to get my yoga classes on Groupon and to buy dog food on sale, but not too poor to be chastised for using government assistance to feed myself and my family. I am womanly enough to have been called “doll” and “love” by former male bosses, to have been told to smile more times then I can count, but not a woman who was prevented from getting an education and trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession. And thank heavens I am straight for that I have always been allowed to love and marry (and subsequently divorce) whoever I damned pleased. Don’t get me wrong: it hasn’t been easy, but it has been possible.
My point is: I am part of pretty much every minority group out there, and I don’t even understand what they go through. But I try. When (sometimes unwillingly) I enter into discrimination discussions with more privileged, sheltered friends, I feel the need to formulate arguments based on statistics, logical reasoning and contradictions by the other side. But maybe we shouldn’t have to bring up the numbers to convince. Perhaps, we should just listen and give the other side the benefit of the doubt.
If you have been blessed with opportunities to succeed, and are tempted to believe that everyone in the world has had the same, do yourself a favor lest you sound like a fool: consider the historical oppression of certain people, the widespread institutional discrimination of certain groups and most importantly, listen to the stories. Then, concoct and implement your own moral affirmative action: give those who have traditionally had less (money, opportunities, freedom, respect, rights) just a little extra love and support. If we shoot for equity, not equality, we might not need hashtags to shine a light on systemic racism and other inequities. For now, however, #blacklivesmatter, #equalpay, #reproductiverights, #stopbullying, #loveislove.
This post was authored by Angelica Sciencio, an Immigration Attorney at Law Office of Angelica Sciencio and co-chair of the Diverse Women’s Committee.