The idea for this post came to me when I saw what I would consider some closed-minded comments regarding transgender people in America. I won’t get into it, but the whole time I was thinking “I am not transgender, and I will never understand what it’s like to be transgender.” I do understand what it’s like to feel like you are something that you aren’t… or to not feel like you are what you look like.
I am a black woman who went to a mostly white grade school from K4 – 8th grade. There was one other black kid in my kindergarten class. I went to a predominately white high school, I dated someone from that high school in college who told me, “I never really hung out with the black kids because they didn’t seem focused enough.” I went to a predominantly white university for my bachelor’s degree. There were several other black women in my degree major doing their damn thing. I was about 21 years old before I saw another black woman my age working her ass off like I was. I am in a graduate program that typically only has one African American student at a time. The entire college of engineering has few African American students at all, including undergraduate students. I live in Iowa, this shouldn’t be a shock. If you’re still with me, here’s the point I am black, but I grew up in a completely white world.
If I had been less fortunate in my life, I would have met a lot of people who looked at me, saw my blackness, and turned the other way. That wasn’t the case though; all of the friends I have now make me forget what color I am (and what color they are) and we just get along because we’re all people. This post isn’t about racial bias or about gender bias, really. It’s about the way we let what we see influence how we respond to people. If you grew up surrounded by people who look like you and little to nothing else, then you are probably going to have a much harder time holding your judgement. I am not asking anybody to grow up and change and be progressive overnight. I do wonder where we would be if everybody just tried though.
I welcome people being open minded and sharing their opinions. I think it is important regardless of the topic, because somebody with different ideas is going to make you think harder. The struggle arises when you talk with another person who won’t think differently. We need to remember that nobody’s life is perfect, even if the struggle is a struggle of privilege. The fact of the matter is that anytime change comes along we become uncomfortable and we may say and do things that don’t reflect our best selves. It would benefit us all to remember that. Although it is difficult to stay calm when something gets under our skin, the only way the conversation is going to go well is if we don’t jump down each other’s throats. It’s hard, and I know that it’s hard. That’s why we need to practice.