Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Token
By Tia


I am…different. I’m eclectic. I’m not the norm (what ever that is.) I thoroughly enjoy
destroying stereotypes. It makes me smile. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember and I wouldn’t change a thing. However, the issue at hand is not my idiosyncrasies. As one who enjoys being different and appreciates the differences in others, I often find myself the only person of color in random circles. I must take this opportunity to say that I don’t always care for that situation. Now mind you I’m not intimidated by it. But inevitably, as the only minority a group, by default I become the spokesperson of an entire race of people. Call me selfish, but I don’t need that kind of pressure. I don’t want to speak for people that I don’t know, and I’m positive that there are people out there that don’t want me speaking for them. As much as I respect Jesse, Colin, Condoleezza and the like, we differ greatly in our opinions and I don’t want to casual observer to think that all black people have all of the same world views.

As much as I try to avoid the being the “token” it sometimes happens from time to time. This weekend I found myself surrounded by some people I consider close friends and some people that I don’t. The following question was posed, “Tia, how do you feel about white parents adopting black children?” Never one to run from a discussion (I figure if you ask me, you want to know what I have to say. Don’t get mad when I say something that you don’t like) I jumped right in with my opinion. By the time, the discussion was over, I didn’t like one person, and wanted to slap the fire out of another. I was utterly floored by the pure unadulterated ignorance of the group as a whole. And to be perfectly honest I guess I was a little shocked that in the 21st century that kind of ignorance and insensitivity could still exists. As someone who grew up in mixed neighborhoods, dated black, white and other, and still have close friends who “don’t look like me,” I guess I just assumed that everyone was a open-minded as I am. I figured no educated person could be that ignorant. Shame on me and my naivety.

We pride ourselves in being the technical generation. We give each other the proverbial pat on the back because “we have come so far.” But if we’re honest some where along the way our forward motion affected our memory. We “forget” that slavery was not so long ago. We “forget” that Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay. We “forget” that a black man was chained to a truck and dragged down a dirt road. We “forget” that there are places that I still can’t go because I have a little more melanin than the next man. Yes, it can be argued that these examples are few and far between but we must state the obvious: These things do still happen. My question is why? Aside from the inherently evil argument…I’ve got nothing.

I live in a bubble of sorts. I reside in the dirty, dirty. Cashvegas, baby. I abide 3 hours from where “Bangin’ in Little Rock” was filmed. But despite that, I still remain relatively unscathed by the repugnant things of society. I have two black roommates. One of whom is just as quirky as myself. I work for a company that I would have to guess is a lot more diverse than most. On my study team alone there are 6 blacks, one Hispanic, one Philippino and one other. (I think he might be Middle Eastern but I’m not positive and don’t want to assume.) That kind of diversity in corporate America is rare. And I go to one of the most racially mixed churches in the free world. This is our church logo for crying out loud. I go about most days with the mindset that we all DO get along. So when ignorance rears it’s ugly head, the jolt occasionally rocks my paradigm immensely. And after the tremors have subsided I usually feel like I feel now, sad. Of course, I’m furious that Ghettopoly is flying off the shelves at a frightening pace. I’m pissed that derogatory comments were made against my race and the same person who made the comments is thinking of adopting someone that they so ignorantly and insensitively belittle. I’m angry that affirmative action is STILL necessary. But once the anger has subsided and I’ve had time to think, the heaviness that penetrates my soul is dang near palpable. I’m sad that people have died so that I can sit in the front of this airplane and type this tyrant and yet I still catch random looks and glances from the “majority.” I’m sad that I may very well have to explain the difference between nigga and nigger to my child. My heart hurts for the most for the people that don’t know any better. It’s an awful thing to be lost, but it’s even worse to be lost and not even know it.

We’re inundated with political correctness but to what avail? Instead of teaching tolerance, we’ve learned indifference. We have the, “as long as it’s not happening me/mine” attitude. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there is no standing still. You’re either moving forward or you’re not. It’s like being on one of those moving sidewalks in the airport. Just because you’re not walking doesn’t mean that you’re not moving. You will eventually get to the end of the sidewalk unless you get off and turn around and walk the other way. So I’m starting with the (wo)man in the mirror. I refuse to let the ignorant comments of anyone of any race, stature, or walk of life get me down. I will be the strong independent woman that God has created me to be. I will continue to embrace others not like me. I will raise strong children of different races (in case you didn’t know I want a family that looks like a Benetton ad.) But I will NOT shrink back. I will stand for what I know is just, correct and fair. It’s the only way that I can in good conscious say that I tried. My pastor, Rice Broocks always says, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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