Lori Bryant Woolridge
Why is it Always About Race?
We’ve all heard it a thousand times. So often when there is a discussion or disagreement between a black and white person, the question arises, “why does it always have to be about race?” It’s important for you to understand, for us, it usually is. Most situations hit our ears and punch at the bruises decades of racism have left on our souls. We all need a better understanding how race factors in.
Let me say that again, we all need a better understand of how race factors in.
So many punches come in the form of seemingly innocent questions and observations, or as I call it, to slur with love. “You’re really pretty for a black woman.” “You’re so articulate.” “Those are really expensive.” “Do you really own this house? You’re not renting?” “But you don’t look black.” “But you’re different.” Innocent on the surface and usually delivered without malintent, but loaded with unconscious bias and hurtful insinuations.
Others are in your face and impossible to ignore or misinterpret. They are humiliating, infuriating and 100 percent racist. Just hashtag “Karen” on any social media platform for example.
Understand It Is Often About Race
Let me briefly give you two of too many examples of racist situations fueled by unconscious bias that have happened to me and my family, and explain how and why they felt (and are) painfully racist. (Learn more about me, here!)
First, when the teacher at the private school cast my beautiful brown daughter (the only black child in the class) as a monkey in the school play, it felt racist. The teacher claimed it was E’s gregarious personality that made her perfect for the role and refused to recast her until I took it to the principal and another black teacher interceded.
Why was it about race?
Because of this country’s history of labeling and treating us like animals—apes and monkeys to be specific. Back in the day, people believed we had tails. Seems like only yesterday, folks where labeling First Lady Michelle Obama an ape.
It could be perfectly legitimate that because of E’s personality she would have made a delightful monkey. The real problem was the teacher’s inability or insensitivity about why it bothered me. I was protecting the psyche of my black child and she didn’t seem to care. It was yet another example of trying to help people understand and being ignored.
The second situation was when the real estate agent (a real Karen) we were interviewing, called the police on my husband—in my house—because she felt uncomfortable.
Because in our effort to show case our home, we lit the pool lights, had the fireplace going and had classical music playing on the sound system throughout the house. In the five minutes it took me to finish my phone call (she was early for the appointment) and come downstairs to join them, she felt threatened and felt my husband was trying to seduce her.
Why was it about race? Because as this Chicago Tribune article explains, “From the time black men were first brought to America in chains, they were viewed as sexual predators whose primary desire was to violate white women.” Yeah, it felt, and was, racist.
These are just two examples. There are so many to tell in my 60 plus years of living as a black woman in this country, married to a black man and raising a black son. The micro-aggression and overt racism experienced by my family, friends and people is real, and they can take a toll on your sense of value, worth and deservedness. They also require incredible fortitude and strength not to succumb to anger and feeling victimized.
It’s About Race for All of Us
The truth is, ultimately, it does come down to RACE: Respect, Access, Compassion and Conscious Awareness, and Equality. That’s what we want for ourselves and our loved ones.
Isn’t that what you want too?
So maybe it is about race for all of us.