Is what it boiled down to …
I was having a conversation with a colleague, where I was again reminded, “You gotta to put that white on when talking to white folks.” Knowing what was meant, while also being aware of the short-term benefits; I cannot bring myself to overlook the long-term detriment. The calamity of which I deign to say we are presently experiencing.
Put the white on. What was being referred to is that I was raised in a predominantly white community. I have insight into their mannerisms, proclivities, and perspectives; I ought use this to my advantage in woo-ing them. Yet, I am seemingly completely unable.
It was expected of me, for most of my life, to make white people happy, most often by entertaining them with song and dance, quite literally. It was shown to me that this performance is always expected; that all aspects of my life were for the entertainment of others. My humanity was not to be seen, mentioned, or acknowledged. If ever it was, attention was withheld, and support withdrawn. After a decade of trial and error, attempting my identity to be held with some semblance of lasting humanity, I have learned a different tone needs to be set from the beginning.
This is not to say that command needs to be taken, but rather, a strong set of non-negotiable boundaries manifest. To the over-privileged it can seem confining, when the reality is that the field is being leveled. My opinions are informed and valuable; they are not entertaining. They are real, and they are actionable.
From this position we can return to joviality; when beginning a relationship from a feigned position of deference, both participants remain on shaky ground indefinitely. By affirming a strong grounding based in honesty, nuance and compassion, a relationship capable of withstanding difficult conversations can be built. This ought be all of our aims, to build strong relationships founded upon our individual truths, capable of acknowledging and accepting the truths of others.
So in telling my truth, rather than being nice, I seek to be kind.
Here is my truth, if you find it distasteful let us part ways; and if not, let us venture further in conversation, and work. Together we are capable of being stronger, but that strength is not forged on a field of delusions, rather in the furnace of vulnerability. Here is where the shedding of our facades becomes a molting through which we transform into beings able to connect with others. In this transformation we become able to build upon our weakness through the strengths of others, and in turn, provide refuge for others in ways they are unable to provide for their self. This is how we become stronger together, this is how we grow.
Or at least, that is the world in which I would like to live.