When Racism Comes From Your Own Community of Color
When I moved back to NYC from Wisconsin with my two youngest children, not a day would go by where some one, somewhere, didn’t ask me if I was their babysitter. I once had a man threaten to call the cops because I was reprimanding my tantrum-ridden child and he thought I was a babysitter who was taking too many liberties with other people’s children.
Back then, and really this was only 2 years ago, my youngest boys looked more like their Irish/Scottish father. They had inherited his green eyes and light skin, one had inherited his smooth hair, while the other had inherited my curls – but blond.
I lived in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, and the people asking me how much I charged to babysit my kids, or threaten to call the police when I reprimanded them were, in fact, Dominicans.
I have experienced racism but I have to say, that I have heard more comments made and more ill-behavior demonstrated from members of my own community because of whom I married and the color of his skin.
Maybe it’s because I’m familiar. Maybe it’s because saying it to another person of color isn’t racism. Maybe it’s because I need to be reminded that I “sold out”. Maybe it’s because I need to be kept in my place.
Either way, it is no less racist, nor hurtful to be told that I married “the enemy”. It is no less infuriating to be told that I no longer understand the plight of our community of color and the struggles we have to overcome and still experience because of whom I married. It is no less ignorant to deny me my right to identify as who I am because I married someone of another race and ethnicity. It is equally hurtful when judgments are passed against the man that I love because of the color of his skin. He is not representative of whatever white person hurt you, just as I am not representative of whatever Latino of color did the same.
Whether the question was if my child was adopted or in my care – no denying they are stupid questions to begin with – I did nothing for my children and for other biracial children and their parents by acting defensively, combatively, or hateful. And I learned to not label a person as a whole, without knowing them, based on one comment, as painful as that comment may be. At some point angry, hateful comments do nothing to improve the conversation and those who hold on to such things are seen more as the problem than the solution. And there are a lot of people in my community of color who are hindering the conversation and really need to just shut up.
We have the opportunity now, today, to make a difference for our community and our children. We have an opportunity to be better and bigger and wiser and kinder. We can hold on to the anger brought upon by the ignorance and hatred of others, or we can rise above it and prove ourselves worthy of the life we lead, a life fought for us by generations before. Racism has no validation. No matter who you are.
Now, you will often hear me and my husband make jokes around the generalizations that exist about us, about me as a Latina, about him as a white man, about us as a couple. I make joke of it with my friends as well. I laugh about these things because it takes away their power to be hurtful to me.
As my children grow and society forces labels of identity on them, they are learning to create their own, based on the love they witness at home. I hope that regardless of race and ethnicity, we teach all our children to do the same.