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Post Reply "I’m tired of suppressing myself to get along with white people"
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 6/5/16

I met my new roommates on Craigslist. Two white, one Chinese. Together we represented Portland, Florida, China and (with me) D.C., and as we moved into our apartment in Bed-Stuy last fall, I was excited for the potential of cross-cultural exchange.

We had a get-to-know you powwow on the rooftop. We talked about ourselves, what brought us to New York. It was a warm evening in September, a couple of weeks after Michael Brown was shot, and somewhere in the mix I brought up Ferguson, hoping to spark a “conscious conversation.” Then it happened. The nightmarish response.

“What’s happening in Ferguson?” one of my white roommates asked. “I heard some kid got shot or something like that.”

The words clamored in my ears. How could he not know? Weren’t his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds flooded with opinions and hashtags? I’m sure he meant nothing by his statement. We’re all ill-informed from time to time. But as I stood there, awkwardly not saying a word — while hundreds of words ran through my head — it was a reminder of how much I would have to suppress in order to get along with my white male roommates in our tiny four-bedroom apartment. This place I would call my home for a year.

It hasn’t always been like this for me. I’m a girl with a fro, raised in the place once known as “Chocolate City.” I grew up part of a black nuclear family, was home-schooled, then became part of of the mini-Historic Black College Experience at Temple University. After arriving in New York, I became an intern at Essence, a magazine so safe I likened my boss to an aunt. Those settings were as comfortable as my grandma’s cooking on any given Sunday.

I longed to crawl back to my tiny black universe. A place where I could create a sense of peace, identity and acceptance, a place where I could sit there, trying to untangle my fro and make sense of what it means to be an African-American woman in this country, rehashing our history while facing present pain. But life happens, and most of us can’t stay in our own utopias forever.

Now I faced a new reality. The brief conversation on the roof that hot September night lasted much longer in my head. I sent myself into a 200-year-old tizzy, reckoning with outdated ideas on race, tampering with prejudice and stereotypes. I became enslaved by my emotions.

I started to worry about all the other things I might have to explain: My hair, the food I eat, why I like Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye. Maybe I should have considered it a teaching opportunity. But I wasn’t feeling generous. I was all twisted up inside, ablaze over racial dynamics and anxious what other minefields my roommate might stumble upon. I hoped he wouldn’t say something really ignorant, causing me to just snap and go off on an angry rant. Then I’d have to make my living situation salvageable by pocketing my black rage, putting on my best smile and telling him, it’s all love.

I wanted my home to be a refuge, a place where I could be wretched when I wanted, walk around in my bonnet, fry chicken and sing real loud to Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Suppressing my blackness every day is exhausting. Back at Essence, we used “sister girl language,” but since then, I’d faced tougher environments. I briefly worked at a (now-defunct) women’s fashion website, where I was one of the only black people. I would pitch ideas that mattered to me, like how to do natural hair, only to see them ignored, shuffled to the side or diluted like apple juice in order to be made palatable to mainstream “whiteness.”

I was tired of catering to everyone else’s comforts. How much of my day-to-day experiences as a black woman do I have to filter? I replace “hey girl” with boring hellos. I eat my leftover fried chicken outside the office. In order to have some common point of identifiable communication, I pretend to care about Taylor Swift, or white movie stars on their I’ve-lost-count remarriages and those other white pop stars I could not care less about. “Oh yeah, she’s cute,” I tell them. “Yeah, that’s cool.”

As summer turned to fall and then winter, I continued to be dumbfounded at the way, for some white people, the killing of Michael Brown just didn’t resonate. They didn’t feel the need to pay attention. I guess some white people do act “real vanilla” and only understand the realities of their own universe. Like running around drunk in Santa costumes in the name of SantaCon while “The Millions March NYC” launches in response to the non-indictment verdicts. That’s real.

In December, when the Eric Garner verdict came out, I became loaded down with more emotional baggage than I could conceal. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t care if I wasn’t mixing with others. I found my little black planet at work. I went over to my black boss and talked real low and real brief about how disturbing this all was. I grabbed one of my home girls I work with. We took to the streets to protest right outside my job. I hoped no one would see me and think something misguided.

Walking home that night, I unleashed all my tears. I wanted to reach out and hug a black man. Before I arrived at my apartment, I dried off my face as though nothing happened. My white male roommate asked me about the protest; I gave him a non-detailed response. I said something like, “I’m really upset, but it was a good way for me to get those feelings out.” I couldn’t handle revealing too much; I wanted to avoid a loaded conversation. I took a deep breath and exhaled, closed my bedroom door, picked up the phone, and spoke in whispers about how racist these non-indictments were to my parents, and to my socially conscious white and black friends.

These non-indictments reiterated what I’m up against every single day: the unintentional ignorance of white people. But I was also aware of my willingness to put away my justified “black rage” in order to ensure that my interactions with white people remain comfortable. And the more I hid it, the more crazed I became. By the time my birthday rolled around, in December, I was cooped up in my bed, without an appetite, my fro needing a good deep conditioner. I was making myself sick.

I know this needs to change. I understand that for my own growth, and in order to forge honest relationships with white people I meet — whether it’s my roommates, or my co-workers, or anyone else — I need to reveal myself more. I need to start sharing about my history and my culture and how it plays out in my everyday life as an African American woman. I don’t want this rage to fester into bitterness, or infect the very close white friendships I already have. I don’t want to ignore my rage, but I don’t want to be controlled by it either. Concealing my emotions has made me feel like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.

Things are calm right now at the apartment. I don’t bring up these sorts of conversations. I don’t talk about what happens every 28 hours — a black person is killed. My white male roommate and I, we just don’t go there. It makes things easier. Instead, our conversations shuffle between our day-to-day experiences at work, dating and the nuances of the city. I keep those “forbidden” conversations behind closed doors, and even when I’m alone I speak in code. I don’t say “white.” I use “they” instead.

But I want to stop tiptoeing around race. My blackness is not a secret I have to keep. I want to be able to publicly express my honest admiration for being black, outside of my little black planet. I don’t want to feel marginalized, like I can’t speak hard truths about myself. Having honest and challenging conversations with people of another race will hopefully disrupt other people’s ignorance. But it will also help me. I need to stop with my mental temper tantrums. I want to get free.
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/20/im_tired_of_suppressing_myself_to_get_along_with_white_people/




Then it happened. The nightmarish response.

“What’s happening in Ferguson?” one of my white roommates asked. “I heard some kid got shot or something like that.”

The words clamored in my ears. How could he not know? Weren’t his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds flooded with opinions and hashtags?


Because people should always get their information from twitter, instagram, facebook and hastags... Her whole reasoning behind all this is completely insane.
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 6/5/16
good lord people have issues. we are all human. If this guy is saying he has to suppress himself for a certain race then that is straight up racism.
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 6/5/16

Kira0309 wrote:

good lord people have issues. we are all human. If this guy is saying he has to suppress himself for a certain race then that is straight up racism.


It's a woman. And it all started just because someone didn't know about the shooting of Mike Brown.... That's sad.
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 4/24/16

D4nc3Style wrote:


Kira0309 wrote:

good lord people have issues. we are all human. If this guy is saying he has to suppress himself for a certain race then that is straight up racism.


It's a woman. And it all started just because someone didn't know about the shooting of Mike Brown.... That's sad.


oh sry. But ya thats sad. I don't know who Mike Brown is either. I don't watch TV and run around on twitter or any of that nonsense. Has nothing to do with race.
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 4/24/16
I don't get the issue with this one in particular. She recognizes it's a problem on her end for throwing 'mental temper tantrums'. She's forging dishonest relationships with white people because of it. She's becoming self aware she had been acting differently around others because of their race--that's a good thing. She won't recognize whether those fears are misplaced until she puts them aside. She only knows what she's been told. She was wrong before to do it, but she's realizing it.

I know a lot of people that have irrational fears that make them not want to potentially discomfort others in conversation. You could pretty much ask anyone that's experienced social anxiety.

I'm already ready for people to jump on the bandwagon on this one though.

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Posted 4/24/16

Kira0309 wrote:


D4nc3Style wrote:


Kira0309 wrote:

good lord people have issues. we are all human. If this guy is saying he has to suppress himself for a certain race then that is straight up racism.


It's a woman. And it all started just because someone didn't know about the shooting of Mike Brown.... That's sad.


oh sry. But ya thats sad. I don't know who Mike Brown is either. I don't watch TV and run around on twitter or any of that nonsense. Has nothing to do with race.


Didn't know it's now racist to not know of a black man getting shot by police after he robbed a convenience store and attacked police.
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 4/24/16

D4nc3Style wrote:

Didn't know it's now racist to not know of a black man getting shot by police after he robbed a convenience store and attacked police.


Anyone who does that is going to get shot. Duh. People are stupid. That is why I hate humans.
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Posted 4/24/16

PrinceJudar wrote:

I don't get the issue with this one in particular. She recognizes it's a problem on her end for throwing 'mental temper tantrums'. She's forging dishonest relationships with white people because of it. She's becoming self aware she had been acting differently around others because of their race--that's a good thing. She won't recognize whether those fears are misplaced until she puts them aside. She only knows what she's been told. She was wrong before to do it, but she's realizing it.

I know a lot of people that have irrational fears that make them not want to potentially discomfort others in conversation. You could pretty much ask anyone that's experienced social anxiety.

I'm already ready for people to jump on the bandwagon on this one though.



I'll give her credit on realizing it's a problem for her to be doing that and everything else.

The fact it all started out the way it did, and her basically blaming and hiding herself because of the white man, is just idiotic. Her keeping those "forbidden" conversations hidden behind closed doors, probably to only talk other black people about, is still pretty stupid on her part.

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Posted 4/24/16

D4nc3Style wrote:
I'll give her credit on realizing it's a problem for her to be doing that and everything else.

The fact it all started out the way it did, and her basically blaming and hiding herself because of the white man, is just idiotic. Her keeping those "forbidden" conversations hidden behind closed doors, probably to only talk other black people about, is still pretty stupid on her part.



I realize, but the same could be said of many fears. A lot of people don't find their fears to be rational or particularly virtuous. She recognized she was forging dishonest relationships because of it. You also have to understand the types of environments that place these ideas and fears into people's head. Coming to a realization like this should be praised rather than disparaged for what it had been.


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Posted 4/24/16
all I got from that is that she really loves her fried chicken hahahaha



also she should just be herself, not suppress "blackness" I just think she's suppressing herself. She reminds me of someone, who tried to conceal and don't feel.

Just gotta
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Posted 4/24/16

pandrasb wrote:
Just gotta


Winning comment of the day.



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Posted 4/24/16

PrinceJudar wrote:


pandrasb wrote:
Just gotta


Winning comment of the day.







alspug 
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Posted 4/24/16 , edited 4/24/16
Sounds to me like this person is actually very racist . I mean it is the white persons fault that a Thug who tried to murder a cop (look at the DOJ autopsy findings) got shot and a Democratic sponsor who also has done some time assisting the Nazi's sponsored protests and literally ruined a good mans name and life . Then a man who was capable of screaming I can't breath died due to being not only overweight but acting illegally and resisting arrest ..................... well it's time to blame the white guy and crawl into a safe space . Sorry but if you can't look past your skin colour and that of those around you then you are possibly racist or under exposed to the world around you .
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Posted 4/24/16
I'm face-palming this, but also most, if not all, reactions to this.
"I am offended that not everyone understands me, but I am also offended that I might have to explain who I am so that people can understand me."
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Posted 4/24/16

PrinceJudar wrote:

I don't get the issue with this one in particular. She recognizes it's a problem on her end for throwing 'mental temper tantrums'. She's forging dishonest relationships with white people because of it. She's becoming self aware she had been acting differently around others because of their race--that's a good thing. She won't recognize whether those fears are misplaced until she puts them aside. She only knows what she's been told. She was wrong before to do it, but she's realizing it.

I know a lot of people that have irrational fears that make them not want to potentially discomfort others in conversation. You could pretty much ask anyone that's experienced social anxiety.

I'm already ready for people to jump on the bandwagon on this one though.



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