Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Lived Racial Experiences Part 2: Standing on the Hot Coals of Truth

This is a series of posts in which I share my racial experiences as a Black woman  in America. I am an activist and a humanitarian. If I want to make the world a better place, I must begin with me and examine how race shows up in my life. These are my epiphanies.

photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Self reflection is an important part of my personal growth. I look at Self and my reactions to the world around me, and I adjust. But I admit seeing is difficult when I don’t want to face my truths. Because of all the racial turmoil and unabashed hatred going on in the world, I feel the need to check for biases and prejudices in how I’m processing what’s happening. How am I moving through the world? 

As much as I advocate for what I believe is right, I’m not so naive or so full of myself that I believe that I live bias free. I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I am blinded by my own perceptions and misconceptions. A few weeks ago, I went up north to see a sold-out play. Issues of race and color intrigue me, and this play (that I have since forgotten the name) was a story of both. It was about free women of color who lived openly with their White lovers in Louisiana. And even though they could not marry, the women and their offspring could inherit his fortune prior to the Louisiana Purchase.

I put my name on the list and went across the street to grab a bite to eat. The restaurant had indoor and outdoor seating. It was nice out, so I opted to sit outside. Next to me was an interracial couple. He was Black, she was Other. My mind immediately went to judgment about why this dark skinned Black man was with this non Black woman. The stories of dark men hooking up with light women to increase their chances of having light brown or tan babies was not foreign to me. I had seen it, heard it, and tried in vain to explain to dark boys in my classes over the years that being with light girls would not guarantee the birth of light babies.

And as soon as I was conscious of my thoughts, I chided myself for jumping to conclusions. I was able to get in to see the play. The man and his wife from the eatery were seated in the audience. During the Q&A after the show, he talked about how he had come to learn to love himself as a Black man. He gushed about the strength and the beauty of Black women, and how the play spoke to him that we need to love Black women. The Latina with him was his wife. He said that she was beautiful, too. This reminded me of how quickly and absented mindedly we succumb to stereotype. He wasn’t a Black man stepping over sisters to get to mixed race women like Kanye who said he and most of his friends like “mutts” or Lil Wayne who does not hide his lover for red bones (light skinned Black women).  But I digress. I made unfair assumptions about the man in the audience. His appreciation of Black women did not supersede his love for his wife and vice versa. 

During the month of July, I worked with a summer program teaching social justice. I worked with a great bunch of ladies. The day following the tragic fatal police shootings in Dallas, a White woman at work remarked at how horrible it was. The three black women sitting at the table remained silent. The shootings had come on the tail of two police shootings of unarmed Black men. We changed topics. I made some assumptions: as Black women we were in solidarity in our thoughts. But it wasn’t that simple. I had only been working with these women for a few weeks, so we were still learning about each other. It turns out that the White woman’s son is a police officer, so it stands to reason that she would be upset by police shootings. Both of the Black women have Black sons, and one of them is married to a police officer. Imagine her anguish. She has to worry about her husband and her sons coming homely safely every night. 

These situations serve to remind me that even in my fight for civil rights, I still have my own work to do. Nothing is rarely as simple as it seems. The world draws a stark line of black and white, but so often the line is blurred. There are so many shades of grey in our existence. I recognize that I jumped to my own conclusions without having all the facts in both situations. How often do we do that? I’m not afraid to admit that I fall short. I’m standing in my truth even if it feels like hot coals under my feet. I have to stand in it, own it, and work on it. But every day I have a chance to learn and do better than I did the day before. That’s My Truth and I’m standing on it.
What’s your truth? Be sure to let me know in the comments section.


  1. Jennifer Brown BanksAugust 15, 2016 at 4:08 PM

    Timely piece. "Start with the man in the mirror" as Michael Jackson once sang. :-)

    1. Yes, that's who we must start with if we want to make a change.