posted by jroselkim
I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up lately, especially growing up as a minority identity after watching Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project unfold. If I were influential enough to start a similar campaign for young girls of colour everywhere, would I be able to confidently tell them that it will in fact get better when they get to be 18, 22, or 35?
The truth is, life gets more complicated as one’s racial consciousness awakens, and the burden of being a visible minority never gets lighter.
In a way, perhaps it has the potential to get worse as we learn the ways of the world, about concepts like institutionalized racism. How can I express the feeling of betrayal and hopelessness I felt when it became crystal lear that racism is so embedded, so naturalized within society that we are trained to not see it, to self-hate and hate others for not being a blank slate?
How can I describe the fear I felt at reading about hate crimes targeted towards interracial couples that happened in Canada as recently as this summer?
How can I articulate the shame I felt about having an egg-and-ketchup sandwich at the age of 12, when these things mattered all the world, and couldn’t help but hate my own mother for trying, trying so hard, but failing to be “Canadian” like other mothers? How can I express my guilt and sadness for hating my parents for where they came from for so long?
So how should I go on, and how should we all go on? I have no answers, and I cannot, with good conscience, look at a camera and say confidently that life will get better.
But I can say this.
Dear young woman of colour,
I apologize that I have no real words of comfort for your future.
But please know that I understand:
every ounce of shame you’ve shed for feeling different
even though that person only was curious,
only had good intentions when he or she reminded you of your otherness.
that you may question your motive for being attracted to someone who is
outside of your race
because if you may wonder
does he/she like me for me?
or my skin colour?
(and you’ll never know, or at least, never trust the answers)
And your friends and family may wonder out loud:
is she a traitor to her culture?
does she just want to move “up”?
And maybe you just want to give up because it’s easier
to follow everyone’s expectations;
you may not know what makes you happy anymore,
amongst mixed messages that say you should be both
obedient and integrated
I don’t know if it gets better
as you grow older, as you grow into the othered consciousness
that you express mostly through self-deprecation,
And I’m sorry that we may fail you in battling racism
that difference is (still) more or less a dirty word.
But please know that there are allies. Others who feel the same way as you do.
Of course, nobody feels the exact pain that you had. Do not let anybody tell you that they know exactly how you feel, and prescribe a solution.
More importantly: do not let anybody tell you that your emotions are not real. Never ever succumb to those that want to rationalize your legitimate hurt. Because if they succeed in doing that, they succeed in taking your history away. They succeed in quashing the uniqueness that makes you powerful, just so they could sleep better at night.
And please know that while life may not get so much better, it does get better when you can find your voice, and others like yours.
I still make do because other stories from women of colour opened my eyes to tell my own.
And your stories will inspire others that come later to continue fighting, and hopefully exist in a society where our skin colours, our cultures, and our languages are no longer a burdern
but just a part of you.