Cafe Hitch-hike


The first steps are always the hardest

I wanted to tell this grand pubah: just shut the fuck up already! They claimed to be on a grandstand of social justice, diversity, acceptance, and inclusion, but they way they treat people is the complete opposite. I can see through their asinine I stand with you... we're all in this together bullshit. Just stop with the fucking plastered expression of remorse and empathy already! It's not real! You're a goddamned fake and hypocrite!

So the goddamned denial finally saw bits of light! Oh, what a shock racism and brutality is! It had to take dozens of recorded murders and even more that never even saw the light of day before this happened! These are events, they barely touch on the lifelong, actual experience of racism that Ibram X. Kendi describes.

We were told we had to work harder. We were told we had to overlook our limitations and backgrounds. We were told we had to adapt, edit, deny, and change ourselves over to be accepted in the-- mainstream world. We were told to aim high while hateful, angry, jealous, or insecure people kept hitting low. We were told to pray, think positive, practice good self-care, or whatever else we had to deal with this constant! We were told this by the majority and our most of our Black and brown mentors alike.

I've been doubted on my knowledge and had to assert where I got it (even down to specifying sources and theories). I've had to justify why I earned spots in competitive programs. I've had to explain my administrative decisions far more than others (refer to 'specifying sources and theories,' and yet I can guarantee most of the people who asked had zero or minimal knowledge of these). I've had to persuade people to hear me out or like me before they let me into a conversation. I've had to apologize for pointing out when information was incorrect, or ignore it so someone wouldn't take it an an insult.

It's different for me, oh yes. I had 2 privileges most persons of color didn't have. I lived most of my life in the majority world, and I usually could pass. The females of color told me to play it for what it was worth; it opened more doors for me than what they had because their identity was too obvious.

After 6 months working in a downtown office, my Black friend asked (part joking, part serious), "do they still think you're Italian?" Yes, they did, and I had no intention of tipping them off. The office was staffed by people from the farming villages outside of town, and thanks to my awful teaching internship set in one of them, I experienced many of their people as being being racist or color blind (that is, they denied experience linked to one's color). I also heard the colleagues ridiculed the Black person I replaced! She called them every so often to check in and actually thought they were her friends! I didn't want to imagine how they'd speak of me when I wasn't around or after I finally bailed on them. On the second to last day of my job, I came out a colleague who had Latino relatives he treated with regard. His face presented this question, why didn't you tell me sooner?, but he was able to promptly answer it on his own.

We were told we didn't deserve help and we had to pull ourselves out of our own bootstraps. It's now been well-established that meritocracy is false, and racism/ oppression has terrible effects on people's well-being! It's no coincidence suicides have been going up, especially among Black male youth and that our indigenous people are plagued by suicide and addiction. I still grieve at what addiction and violence has done to Latinos and my family. Social science has affirmed people don't get privilege or something from nothing, these are largely passed down. Those who are self-made had some type of help along the way; this part is true for me, mentors, the education system, and the government have helped me get to where I am.

The thing is there's just too many people who think people like me and others like me need to know our place. Live in our sides of town; associate or marry with only our kind; work servant-class jobs; think, act, walk, and talk like them but rarely get treated equally; earn the training, education, and credentials but accept being on the lower rung. It's not like lynching or other extreme forms of violence, but it's a gradually soul-stripping form of racism and exclusion.

There's others who say they didn't own slaves, but deny the group they belong to benefitted from it. There's those who say we need to get a grip because everyone faces exclusion and people can be dicks to each other, then deny the biases behind them. I just talked about the bootstrap narrative; the people who say that should take a hard and honest look at what they got while they were working their way up, whether it was from their family, the government, or other type of benefactor. Would they be where they are now if it weren't for that? Finally, there's those who say it's something we brought on ourselves and if we acted more mainstream, we wouldn't have these issues. Guess what? We tried. We did. Did it help us get acceptance? Did it help create a color-blind society? No, none of that happened. I think that's also driven us to where we are today.

I guess all of this just got stirred even more when that awful GP and others expressed these... sympathies... contrition... whatever. It's like they're saying it now, so what's gonna be done? Is it going to be up to us again to educate people, hold their hands while we walk them through our lived experience, assure them they're the good ones (hah, like we've been told when those who blatantly exclude people like us decide to let us into their world), and to soothe others when they finally see the collective rage and pain of the oppressed? Is the ball in our court again to fight injustices and systemic failures that keep all of this going, and to softpedal its effects to not offend the sensitivities of others? Is it our job to do all this work but without the power and with only our own support to make changes? Will it be our job to initiate these conversations when people don't want to listen or clutch on their beliefs to avoid guilt, shame, or pain? It crushes me to wonder about this. None of these things will be solved anytime soon, it's going to take years of painful talks and actions to make substantial changes. I guess the first steps are always the hardest.

downwind | upstream