Terms such as microaggressions, unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion are all too familiar to me. During my time as a student at Humboldt State, I heard these terms so frequently they became annoying in general.
I know these terms have importance and it is imperative to get white folks to understand power dynamics and systems of oppression so they are aware of how their actions whether unconscious or not, perpetuate these systems.
During my time as a student at HSU I heard these terms frequently but did not see as much institutional change or change in the actions of administrators and those who run the university.
This is why I was not surprised to see a local organization in Humboldt County putting on similar workshops for those in the community. I really hope something concrete comes out of their workshops.
There is a huge difference between sitting in a room discussing concepts with those who look like you, versus translating those conversations into real, concrete solutions that you act upon daily outside of workshops and meetings.
I was called a “Black bitch” by a person in the community recently and it was honestly very appalling and infuriating. It also made me reflect on all of the focus to get white folks to understand their “unconscious racism/bigotry/biases.”
I wondered why there is not the same amount of energy or effort into workshops for students of color.
Students could use de-escalation techniques on how to respond when confronted by the behaviors we are trying to get white folks to realize–whether it is “unconscious biases” or blatant bigotry and disrespect regarding your race.
I had just parked by Smugz pizza in Arcata to get some food when a woman comes flying down the street and swerves into the parking spot directly in front of me, pulling onto the sidewalk. She begins to back up and since I noticed she was already driving erratically, I beeped my horn (just once) to alert her I was behind her and to essentially say be careful.
Things went completely left from there.
First off, this lady flew down the street bumping J.Cole.
Not only was she blasting my favorite rapper since my high schools days as loud as her hooptie stereo would play, this culture vulture was bumping someone whose platform has always addressed racism as well as race and class politics in America.
When I beeped my horn I could hear her getting irate and talking mad shit while moving her car back and forth to park properly. “Is this good enough for you bitch?” I heard her yelling over J.Cole.
As I get out my car to go into Smugz, she is getting out of her car and I hear her call me a Black bitch and start harping about “students” and the college.
As I am trying to talk to this woman and have a discourse to figure out what the issue is and figure out why she is going around town calling people Black bitches, she immediately took out her phone and said she was going to call the cops and that I was harassing her. I definitely was livid at that point but decided to leave because I did not want to be on this woman’s camera.
I was angry but not to the point of conflict because in my mind all I kept thinking about was the recent “unsolved” murder of David Josiah Lawson.
Josiah was leaving a house party with his girlfriend and two friends when they were approached over a missing cell phone. Lawson’s friends and girlfriend testified they were told to flip out their pockets by Lila Ortega, the girlfriend of Kyle Zoellner. Zoellner was arrested but released soon after Lawson’s murder. There was a melee between the two parties but what got lost in translation was that the altercation was started by some bigotry bullshit according to Josiah’s friends.
Bigotry, that ended in violence and murder, with the prime suspect going free without a trial. A decision to me which reflects racial stereotypes and unconscious biases in a small, rural town. The intrinsic loyalty of protecting your own induced by stereotypes–stereotypes which tell law enforcement and the criminal justice system of Humboldt County that these group of white kids and a Hispanic(?) girl could not be the aggressors and that these Black kids could not have possibly been responding to impending violence against them based on their race.
As I drove away from Smugz, I began to go into a thought process about how non-Black people are aware of systems of oppression and stereotypes, even if it is nothing but a basic subconscious level. If you get into it with someone and they could be wrong as hell, yet still have the audacity to threaten you with calling the police if you are Black. They have extreme confidence that when police arrive, they will most likely go off their version of events. They unconsciously understand that their non-pigmented skin and words hold more merit over you as a Black person in this country due to deeply embedded stereotypes.
If we all can agree that racism or “unconscious biases” is clearly an issue in the area, then we should also view de-escalation tactics just as important.
Students of color should receive the same workshops so they know how to respond to racism or bigotry. As a Black woman, to hear a white person be openly offensive regarding my race, immediately makes me feel like my life is in danger. This is because historically white people’s disdain for Black people has a legacy of murder and mayhem behind it. Open disrespect regarding race is not something viewed as just words but rather a representation of the violence inflicted upon people of color in this country. A people who have suffered so much for so long must draw the line somewhere. Blatant disrespect over my race in 2017, is where I draw that line.
“We have to be dedicated to not only institutional change but also transforming our interpersonal dynamics.”
Please Note: Prejudice, bigotry, and racism are NOT the same thing!