For the past week, I have been listening to Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, where he describes what it was like growing up as a mixed child in South Africa during apartheid and its aftermath. Trevor’s father is white Swiss German, and his mother is black South African, which was illegal under apartheid. So, much of his audiobook is centered around his struggle to fit in with the other kids and even his own family, due to his skin tone, his social class, and even which racial group with which he chose to identify. I’m not going to give it all away, but it introduces an interesting perspective into the racial divide, not just in the United States, but throughout the world.
Speaking of the United States, I recently heard of an incident that happened at my alma mater, one that greatly saddens me, and makes me once again reconsider whether or not the school that I chose and loved so much for 4 years was really the magical place that I thought it was. Basically, a fraternity chapter president used a racial slur against another student outside a party, and has since shocked my student body and alumni community. Nor is it the first time that I have heard of something like this happening at my school. My freshman year, in fact, just weeks after I started college, incidents of racial slurs where happening across the campus. And I know that this has been happening before then, and since then, to marginalized groups across the country and the world for centuries.
I found out about the fraternity incident while I was at work, and I suddenly started thinking about if I were in the shoes of the administrators. What would I say? What would I do? How would I find a way to relate to people who are so different from me? Reading the previous paragraphs, you might be thinking that this post is simply reactionary, another supposed “activist” responding to an incident that happened at a school she loved, and that might be so. Some of you might think that this post is just another white girl trying to prove how “open” she is and just putting the attention on her while marginalized groups are getting their problems swept under the rug. And with all the attention-seeking people in the world, I don’t blame you. But, I’m hoping that at least some of you reading this will take in the spirit in which it’s intended, a young woman looking to learn more about the world around her.
Now, as a white, straight woman who was born into the upper middle class, I don’t pretend to know what people outside that specific group of humans have experienced. Nor will I try to speak for anyone who isn’t me, especially someone whose life experience I don’t know anything about. But, as a straight, white woman, I very well know that I know nothing about anyone’s experience outside of mine, and that I have been very lucky to have been sheltered from some of the unpleasantries that marginalized people have had to experience.
I have always said that when I went to college was the first time that I realized how sheltered I was growing up. Not that my parents didn’t try to teach me about diversity and what makes people different, they did, but the circumstances where I grew up prompted not too, too many of those lessons to go to heart from 5-18. I grew up in an upper middle class suburb of New York City, mostly white and Asian, very few Black kids. In fact, the one black kid in our class was a bit of a side show sometimes. But when I went to college was definitely when I learned that people have voices more powerful than that of the white, straight man, and that we can stand up for each other. But still, with all these incidents happening on my campus, and on campuses around the country, to racially diverse, to LGBTQIA, to women, to the disabled, I stop to wonder. (I know I talked a lot about race in this post, but all groups are marginalized and I am thinking about all of them.)
My question is this: where is the outrage? Where is the sitting down and listening to each other, hearing each other’s stories? I’m looking at you white people, straight people, men. Everyone who enjoys the privileges of being at the top of society in some way, shape or form. Marginalized groups have enough outrage for 3 lifetimes, and they have every right to be so outraged. But yet, where are the people rioting in the street saying “why are we continuing to do this? Why are we giving them more reasons to be upset and furious instead of being upset that we are still acting like cavemen?” We should all be infuriated that we are still living in the days when people who are different from us are marginalized and treated as inhuman. Why do we not care about this?!?!?!
So, here’s what I want to do. I want to understand. I want to learn. I want to take some time to hear your stories and experiences, things that are different from mine and things that I may have seen growing up. I want to hear what it was like growing up gay, bisexual, transgender, Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Libyan, Iraqi, Buddhist, anything. Share them in the comments, share them in my contact page. Help me learn. I want to learn more about the differences between myself and my fellow humans, and learn to appreciate, understand and cherish different experiences.
Much love my friends