I recently particpated in an online discussion about how people on the spectrum can face discrimination. Several people in our group are ladies that are of. a different race and raised outside the United States. One wrote an essay to share her experience. – Greg
FOREVER GRATEFUL TO MY WHITE, BLACK AND GREY FRIENDS!
Dear friends on either side of the “fence”, as someone who has been on both sides, I’d like to share a piece of my mind about the national and world current events. Please bear with me and read all the way to the end of this page.
Although born in Brooklyn, I left this country at the age of 3, missing and shielded from much of the turmoil of the 60s. Hearing the news while overseas, I too used to think “those Black folks” needed to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, “behave” better, and stop committing crimes that landed them in prison. In fact, even when experiencing obvious racism, I mostly denied it. Then I found myself back in the US raising 2 black children, mostly in Upstate NY.
My eyes are pried open: I saw my sweet naïve son called names and followed by store clerks when I sent him to buy while none of his white friends were scrutinized, I learned that restaurant waitresses refused to serve my trusting and idealistic daughter while her white friends were quickly served, I froze in shock while a AAA truck driver scornfully addressed my husband and refused to bring our car home, I wondered why police officers were called to my neighborhood and asked my children what they we were doing in our driveway, and I cringed as real estate agents made disdainful comments upon finding out we were the ones purchasing the house. One of the most confusing surprises was realizing how many seemed OK with people of color as long as they had subordinate roles yet felt threatened and angered whenever one of us demonstrated more intellectual abilities, financial stability or leadership positions than them. I could go on and share more or less obvious forms of racism I’ve witnessed here in the US but I think you get it.
Processing: while remaining hopeful, I began praying for the safety of the men in my life, including my father who is a US veteran; not for their safety from accidents but from a system skewed against them and from overzealous gun-owning citizens. To give my children a better chance at life, I opted to home-school. I wanted them to know what I’ve always known growing up in other countries: that Blacks are beautiful, wise, smart, kind, clean and honest people; and that skin color is like eye and hair color. Yet, I struggled and often paid high prices to find educational material that conveyed these messages. The more I learned, the more I understood how systemic and planned the cruelty and injustice towards people who look like my brothers, sisters, spouse and children are. While rules existed, way too many loopholes made these useless, only helping to convey a false sense of justice and veiling the reality most Blacks in this country face.
My solution: I began buying as much “Black-owned” as I could afford, knowing that those businesses stood little chance of being around for long (it turned out to be true in several cases). I also actively educated my ignorant clueless self about the history of Blacks and “Grey” in America – listening to those who grew up in this country and learning from any reliable source I could find (“grey” is any combination of “white” and “black”, neither one of which is a real skin color).
White Americans who are my heroes: several of my “teachers” happen to be brave white Americans who were upset at the injustices and spoke up. Shunning an alternative peaceful and easy life, they chose to get out of their comfort zone to give others who didn’t look like them a chance. They refused to look the other way or feign ignorance, and instead actively fought the evil and unjust laws used to feed the “hazy” slavery many espouse out of greed and need to control. I cannot thank them enough for writing, teaching, sharing, sponsoring in spite of the troubles they faced. On the other hand, I feel sad for the other kind-hearted whites and “grey” folks who have been misjudged and caught in the middle because of their skin color or because they didn’t quite get it at first attempt. Please don’t give up! And please share your perspective too. Yes, your trauma is real even if that of victims of lifelong racism seems more “legitimate”. And please educate yourself about Black history/reality: you’re more likely to be successful. If you claim to follow Christ, the Bible is replete with strong language from God clearly stating he expects you to actively stand up for the less fortunate.
If you think you’re not ___ist, think again! As a result of my travels, I learned early in life that all peoples have implicit biases. I’m glad that it has finally been proven scientifically: independently of gender, color, political or religious creed, we ALL unconsciously create stereotypes; we absorb messages (often subliminal) around us and unknowingly draw conclusions. These go far beyond color and ethnicity. In other words, there is one group or one person out there that each one of us is unconsciously biased against and – given the opportunity, will tend to treat unfairly. Period. No exceptions! Needless to say, this knowledge should lead us ALL to a humble and continuous self-introspection and distrust of our natural impulses. May we opt to stop dismissing others’ felt traumatic realities just because we can’t relate and show empathy for those on the other side of the fence. Let’s be the bridge-builders we were called to be!