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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I just had the sushi lunch that my husband made for me...and ate it next to a Japanese postdoc in our lab, who ate a Wendy's hamburger. Switcheroo! すりかえ!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yep...Still ignorant

Nothing like a good humbling moment to educate one's self!
So let’s do a quick self-check since I've been away a while.....Yep...I'm still ignorant!

The issue at hand, as it so often is, is about hair. Me? I love to see a black woman with just the same kind of beautiful natural hair that the Father gave her. But it is totally not my call to make. You wear it how you like it and more power to you.

So, a woman that I work with came in after the weekend with a gorgeous new hair style. You know that it took some time and money and it was really well done. But I know better than to make an ignorant comment about a black woman's hair. Problem is, I still don't know which comments are the ignorant ones. Why? Duh...I'm ignorant! I share my experience here so that we can all get educated together.

So anyway, I didn't want to make a big deal about the new hair. Told her I liked her hair on Monday, but that  was all. Tuesday, just making conversation I asked her if it was a weave or if it was all her. OOPS!

"Dang! I’ve got to educate every white girl I come across about talking about hair! Just say 'you look beautiful' and leave it at that.” She went on to explain how I really don't need to know whether it is a weave or not. Just let her be her beautiful self and don’t mess.

Amen! It was a quick interaction, but I am so blessed and lucky that she had the calm, the patience, and the presence of mind that addressed the ouch. It would have been so much easier to get mad and walk away.

I observed in myself how quickly I can get prideful, how I can think I know what I am talking about…how I can get too comfortable with race and somehow think I am entitled to something. And then God puts you right back at square one, feeling dazed and confused...and defensive! If there is one thing I want white people to get from today's entry, it is to check yourself if you start to feel defensive in a conversation about race. My first reaction was to defend myself, to say I was just trying to compliment her, that I didn't mean anything by it. Oh no! That stuff is always beside the point in that moment. Better to respectfully listen and be grateful that she is willing to explain it to you (and be double grateful if she is willing to do it in a calm, patient way, instead of speaking from the true frustration she probably feels inside). Chances are she knows waaay more about situation that you think you do. It is
totally inappropriate to
 act like the victim… like somehow I am offended or the one that was hurt in the situation.

My second reaction? Even when I knew better than to defend myself in that moment, when the event was over, my impulse was to go tell my POC friends what happened so that they could somehow bestow their absolution on behalf of their race and reassure me that I am 'a good white person.' Wrong again! Truth is, I am privileged, I have prejudices that I haven't uncovered/worked out yet, and I am much more often than not in the wrong when it comes to race. Get over it! POC don't want to hear about how you were treated unfairly or were 'wrongly discriminated against' and they certainly don't want to have to console your bruised ego, when you were probably acting stupidly anyway. Remember...take a deep breath, take the lesson as it was given, humble yourself, and don't go running to your blog to share your own holier-than-thou-hyper-racially-educated-white-person perspective.......oh crap......


White people are ignorant until proven educated. Although it is a shame to have to see things like that, and it might
seem unfair, it most often proves to be the accurate description of reality. So don't blame POC for guarding themselves or being defensive. We earned it. As for today, she doesn't know me and I had done nothing to earn her trust or the benefit of doubt in this situation. On the contrary, I am in a position of privilege, clearly befitting from that privilege and then presumed to start a conversation about a topic that I know to be highly charged! Not the smartest of moves on my part. In hindsight, it t should have been obvious that I was going to get called out. But like I said...ignorant.

All this being said, I still might have missed the mark on what today's lesson was all about. I am a little less ignorant than I was this morning, but I've got a long way to go. Eternal gratitude to God and to the dear friends who keep guiding me along the way to enlightenment. One of the main tutors responsible for my education is traveling abroad at the moment. She is doing great things right always. Be safe. I love you.

ps. One other good thing that came of today's event was that it offered an opportunity to bring up race relations with another colleague of mine, a white girl that observed the entire interaction. White people need to talk about race more, but we don't get many opportunities to do so. It just is never brought up--neither positively nor negativity--the ultimate silenced taboo. Like race doesn't even exist. It can be hard to break that silence, so I was glad to have the opening.

pps. I shouldn't have to say this, but unfortunately I think I actually do need to: don't touch a black woman's hair. Why would you think that it is ok? Don't touch my hair either! Unless we're tight...really tight. It's just weird otherwise.

See Also:
Hair (just a little)
Bush and Hurt Feelings
And Then I Realized I was White
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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