I heard a speaker say “don’t cry to give up, cry to keep going…” I just cried reading this entire essay Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People (and its long)…. It spoke to my pain and my purpose! The work I have been called to do scares the shit out of me, but it’s what I know with all my being I MUST fulfill my destiny. God be with me… because I ain’t no punk. My Soul signed a clause with God that will be honored in the flesh.
I didn’t realize how valuable a non-white settings was until after living in Colorado, where I am a minority in 89.5% of the spaces I operate in. Here I am practicing speeches and presentations intended solely for audiences of color, but in front of faces that are 99% white! It was much more of challenge than I imagined. I found my eloquent tongue stumbling over phrases and ideas that I thought may set them off guard or that revealed my true ethnicity, aka my Blackness. I can never forget the permanently pale woman who approached me afterwards saying in response to my “Let me educate you real quick.”
“Don’t you think you say ‘allow me to inform you of some statistics‘ instead…You put your hands on hips.” Then she was educated real quick on the vernacular of my people and what they will be most receptive to.
I remember the first time I was in a safe Black space here. It was like a burden lifted off me, temporarily. I let hair my hair down aka I let my Blackness out. I hadn’t realized how trapped and bottled up it had been. The recollection my first visit home and having Black conversation. Not even realizing it was thing until the words seeped from between my lips, it still amazes me. I truly didn’t know what I was missing until the sweet taste of Ebonics was in my mouth, my native tongue. It is unfortunate that Ebonics is not revered as the language it is versus a dialect in which it was improperly labeled in the past (Oxford.com).
Recently, I was interviewed for a documentary series about being Black in Colorado. I told them of my great discovery of my “house-nigga” card being revoked. I am rarely the darkest person in the room, even in a room full of Whites. My fair complexion has privileged me in certain domains, while attracting cruel ridicule in my own community, and even family. I also shared my campfire experience. “Look at us, white men with our Black cook.” Talk about traumatizing. Can you imagine?! Here I am, outnumbered in the middle of a national state park, by white men with guns, who are responsible for me getting home. When I got home to my equally fair-skinned Mexi-blanco lover, I told him “your friends treat me like nigga when you’re not around.” He thought my argument was outdated, furthermore absurd, and I felt it futile.
It was in that moment I was realized despite his Mexican mother, he clearly identified as white, and I never felt Blacker. How could I expect him to understand my plight? He proclaimed that racism was dead. My response, “Ask your brother.” His brother like mine, has skin filled with melanin; no denying is 100% Mexicana mama. I witnessed my baby brother catch much more hell in public places. Moreover, because of my light-bright-damn-near-white skin, people NEVER assumed I was with this little Hershey kiss. I heard derogatory remarks, seen foul faces made. And bless my brother’s heart, he was raised around mostly white people, so he didn’t know what was happening. My Grammy was once married to a white man, the grandfather for my brother was raised with. He had no clue there was a difference between him and his white friends, until he came of age.
There are White people who don’t see People of Color as a threat. Or treat us like there’s a shitty stain on our skin. Then there are those who seemingly who feel the need to remind you that you are you indeed, and you are not one of them. My White bretheren do not have the slightest idea of what it is to be Black in a White America. It’s like Kelsey Blackwell, the author of the essay, says
As a person of color, and perhaps the only one in the room, it’s exhausting to always be swimming upstream. To survive in this society, we learn to hold our tongue, to “code switch” to fit in. This is about survival and the basic human need to feel that we belong.
It saddens my heart to compose this article. However, I am blessed to find reprieve in my work. With all my heart, mind and Spirit, I believe something I say or do, while walking this lifetime, will make a difference in how my people (Black, Spanish and Native Americans) and I are perceived and received in the future.
So what is a safe space for People of Color look like? It is a space where there are no white or yellow people present. The term “People of Color” in general refers to any non-white persons, however the term in reality usually identifies something targeting Black and Spanish people. I can imagine what White folks think goes down in these “safe spaces” and why are they needed? What I find that goes on in this space is a collective exhale, simply put. As much as I wish it was a modern-day slave meeting where we discuss how to get off the plantation, stay off the plantation, and how to maintain while we’re still here… NOTHING of the sort happens in reality. What it’s more like is teenagers who are relieved their overbearing parents are finally not around. We can talk how we want without judgement. We can talk about our experiences without backlash. It is no different than when Mexicans get together and do what Mexicans do. I have never heard of any resistance from Whites about other cultures congregating with one another. It seems like the impression is the master wants them to go on over there, but
If you are a person of color who is interested in shifting the paradigm of People of Color or the evolution of American society, please contact me. We have work to do!
Be happy. Be healthy. Be You!
-Mimi the Motivator