Posts Tagged ‘community’

Reflections on why I was the only white person in the village at my last job.

June 16, 2010

Wow, it’s the morning after the post the night before. I am utterly blown away by the personal, profound, and thought provoking comments you guys have left. I sincerely encourage everyone to click back and read the comments – and I have replied to each and every one on the thread. I will continue to do so should more appear.

It was a common occurrence that while reading, I would feel an internal ‘click’ and have a moment of clarity. So many of the comments are written more elegantly than I was able to write yesterday. So many of you ‘get’ what I’m saying, and that has made me feel comforted, understood, and celebrated. So thank you.

A few years ago, I got into an interesting conversation with some friends. From my side of things, I looked around one day and realised all my closest friends were not white (with exception of several lovely people, who usually happened to be gay, Jewish, etc) . At my job, white people were certainly not the dominant group (I’m white, for those who don’t know) and there was a huge diversity of people. Weirdly, whenever we all got together there’d be a white table, a black/asian table, and then a mixed table. I always found myself the only white person on the ‘non-white’ table, or in the mixed group.

And my closet friends then? A mixed race guy, a black guy, a mixed race girl (all straight). Time and time again, we were able to have discussions that none of us had with other staff members/friends. Time and time again, I was actively welcomed into the visible minority groups…and this is a pattern with me. When walking into a room of strangers, I will always pick (and be picked, thankfully!) to sit by people who are visibly minorites in some way (and I admit to sometimes using my ‘gaydar’ to make assumptions) OR to sit by anyone who is sitting by themselves and looks left out.

I am attracted to people who ‘get’ what it means to be a minority. Whether this is by firsthand knowledge (or being the partner of, relative of, etc) of being gay, black, mixed, asian, disabled…and the other myriad of ways people can be different.

I guess what my friends understand is that while every person is unique, some people are part of proud and strong minority groups. For these people, their skin colour or sexuality helps them to define who they are. They delve deeply into themselves for a wider or clearer understanding, they are aware of white privilege, of sexual politics, etc. My friends are a good group of people.

I am the person sitting at the table in the pub talking about mental illness and the impact it has on my friends’ lives. I am the person engaged in discussion about how powerful our groups could be if we joined together rather than pulling apart. I am the one having TMI conversations about how my Muslim friends get out of Ramadan fasting by pretending they have their periods, joking about how my Jewish friend brought me wonderful bagels at Christmas, listening to the impact of being mixed race. (I hope ‘mixed race’ offends no one….it is the going term here in Country B, I have no idea what terms are deemed okay elsewhere – enlighten me!)

Of course, my life has changed now in that my disability and family situation separates me from this old style of communication, but not my way of being.

I spent a long time on the phone with Aussie yesterday. (She’s not white, for those keeping track. Get out your racial identity scorecards!!) She instinctively understood what it meant to be different as an individual and as a couple, as her fiance is white. She is also Christian, and we had a deep and lovely discussion about the context the Bible was written in, the differing translations, and on and on. She enriches me.

She gives me understanding. We are both such pieces of this and that, and I suppose this allows us to understand and communicate easily.

I guess the difference between gay and non-white (sorry, hate this term but wanted to include all people who weren’t white)  people is that a gay child might be hated or rejected by their own family not just because they pick an ‘unsuitable’ partner, but because of who they are – even just on their own. Another difference is that my non-white pals are easy to pick out in a crowd, whereas I am invisible. I long to be visible, as my invisibility hurts me time and time again when people ask about  my husband, talk about my kids growing up to be straight (I don’t care either way, you understand, but I want them to not feel pushed aside or invisible should they be queer). Of course, I’ve not BEEN a visible minority my entire life so can’t speak to what it’s like….though certainly spending a lot of time in a wheelchair or on crutches has given me more insight. The flip side of being visible is that there is nowhere to hide, you are judged instantly (whether people admit it or not), and you are ‘outed’ without your consent.

I am the counsellor who adores working with trans people, who has worked extensively with people with mental illnesses, who likes supporting people to be curious about themselves…and ultimately accept themselves. I was the teacher who liked to speak in another language, and never felt more at home then when surrounded by Deaf people. Oddly, while speaking (signing!) all the time (for an admittedly short placement!) in another language freaked me out initially, I felt easily at home and I’m under no illusions that being gay has helped me to be comfortable in being different.

I am the mother who is already picking out books on diverse sorts of families and reading them to her babies who don’t yet understand. All they know is that they are loved and our family is lots of fun.

I cannot speak for black/asian/etc people, I cannot speak for all gay people, but I can speak for me.

I am instinctively more comfortable with people who have an understanding, or a willingness to understand, minority issues. Lucky for me, that circle of friends is expanding to include of lot of people who happen to be white, straight mothers (though lots of new bi/trans/gay moms as well!) who are raising the next generation to make choices based on love rather than fear.

Hopefully that’s something we can all get behind.

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Quickie but goodie.

June 18, 2009

First of all, I want to thank every single one of you who left a comment – I read them all this morning and was very touched. It made me feel slightly more sane to stay connected to ‘the outside world’ via this blog and Twitter, so thanks to TMD and my sister for updating – and for the other people who were happy to update but I couldn’t contact! A reminder that if I haven’t updated my blog in awhile, check Twitter! Thank you to everyone who called, texted, or Twittered in response.

The last three days have been very, very long. Lots has happened, and I will write about it in detail just for memory’s sake. It is a long story, but it is also a short story:

Both babies are okay. I am okay. We are home, and hoping to still get to 38 weeks. That is the bottom line – the babies are still very happy and healthy.

I am so thankful about this. I will write more in detail later, as I said, but I felt like my whole world was cracking in half when I saw blood on Monday. I started shaking the way I did when I was run over, I couldn’t control my body. More on that later, but for now:

thank you thank you thank you, the babies are okay.

Obama!

November 5, 2008

It feels like a holiday.

On the train to work this morning, a woman with a heavy Ghanian accent was talking with a white Swiss lady.  The Ghanian lady said, ‘My sister, if you asked her who the prime minister was, she’d have to stop and think.  But can you believe, she texted me at 5 am this morning to say that Obama had won!’

The white lady said, ‘That is amazing, all these people getting involved.’  She paused, then grabbed the black lady’s hands and squealed, ‘This is so exciting!’

I looked at the black lady, locked eyes with her, and we both beamed at each other.

Walking to work, a group of three very loud men were clutching newspapers and chatting.  One said, ‘What a day for America, for everybody.  The world is a safer place now. The world is a safer place.’

I keep smiling and smiling, feeling a pride in a country I’ve long felt very cynical about – not just a country, but my country. At 6 am this morning as we were watching the celebrations for Obama’s victory, I turned to TMD and said, ‘You know, maybe there’s a chance of us moving there now.’

And for the first time since I’ve moved abroad, I could realistically wonder when/if federal law would allow gay marriage – and recognise people who’d been married elsewhere. If this happens, suddenly the world opens back up to us.

Congratulations to everyone who voted for this incredible, idealistic man – this black man. What a fucking fantastic day.

TIME FOR SOME FLAIR-PARTICIPATION!

May 22, 2008

Look, we can pretend it’s university all over again and I’ve got this hanging on the outside of my door. I think it would be oh-so-exciting (I am not joking) for you guys to leave comments with flair (copy and paste from facebook, the cheater’s way to avoid using online storage), little random notes, etc.

Of course, I can’t ever be cool enough to virtually attach them to my bare little corkboard, but we can pretend.

And if you feel all crazy from the frantic amount of pictures, poems, flair, abusive language, recipes, jokes, political sermons, random factoids, website links, book reviews, etc that you are posting, you can always be anonymous. One thing I am not is an anonymous discriminator. Now please do leave something, otherwise I’ll look like some fucking lunatic who is talking to herself.

Thanks!

See you in a week or so…..*mwah* (Oh, and just because – you can always check back and LEAVE ANOTHER COMMENT. Ha. Or talk to each other. Or find yourself a new girlfriend/boyfriend. Or…)