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Monday, 18 July 2016

7 Things You do Not Have to do as a Minority

Power to the People! Black Lives Matter!

I wanted to talk about Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the too vast, too frightening number of others in recent memory alone. I've wanted to talk, but each time I would just get sad and frustrated and tongue tied until I deleted it all.

There are other people who have said how I feel better than I ever could, but I still wanted to contribute in some way. So I thought I would make another list of things I have worried about my whole life as an ethnic minority, things that I'm just discovering I don't have to do, and the feeling is so freeing emotionally. So, in case there were some other people struggling with this, I've written some of them down here. Too often we have to sacrifice our own mental health and happiness for the comfort of others, or in order to stay informed and keep fighting, but we're not all as strong as each other. If you need time to hurt, if you need time to breathe, if you just don't feel like fighting today, know that you have done so well already.

So here, for some of my more anxious minorities, to hopefully make life a little easier for you.

As A Minority You Do Not Have To...

1) Give friends outside your group special "permissions" if you don't feel comfortable.

There are some black people that are perfectly fine with their non-black friends and acquaintances using the nigger/nigga for example. I'm not one of those people. That word in the months of anyone not black is a sign of disrespect, almost an act of violence, to me personally. If you don't feel this way that's perfectly fine, but if you feel the same way as me you don't have to pretend to be comfortable with it for the sake of others. Tell people off, politely correct them, make them understand your feelings as plainly as you can. If they listen, that's a great reflection on them and how much they value your feelings.

If they don't, well.

2) Be the spokesperson for your group as a whole.

People should not be taking your experiences and using that to paint a picture of your entire group. Do not encourage or allow that. It puts far too much pressure on you, and takes the blame off that person for not informing themselves correctly. Living under the impression that "my minority friend says x, so I guess that's true for all of them" is lazy, and implies that the person does not care to view your group as individual people. The blame is not on you for telling them what you can about your life and experiences, they must imagine you complexely and you must encourage them to do so.

trio perumnas

3) Convince others of your hardship.

If you are Muslim I should not expect you to give me a detailed summary of the Qu'ran back to front, nor tell you the ins and outs of each political conflicts in every Muslim country. If people ask you questions you only have to explain as much as you want to/you know/you think is appropriate. If the person asking truly cares about the answers you cannot give, and is not seeking to push you into a debate, they will research the answers in their own time.

Google is readily available.

4) Allow jokes or comments that make you uncomfortable.

If I had a pound for every time I let a racist joke or comment slide that made me uncomfortable or can guess where I'm going with that.
When I was younger I thought it made me cool, not being offended by things that I knew were gross and not okay. But the thing about being the "cool" Black friend is that eventually, people start to take jokes and run with them. The occasional joke becomes more frequent and more upsetting, but you feel like you can't say anything now because you didn't say no back then. People ask you stupid questions because you're "cool" and you won't scold them in the way they ought to be. They'll touch your hair without asking, tug your hijab to see how it's pinned, or grab your dick because you're gay and they're a girl so it must be okay. 

The good news is: it's all about consent. You have the right to be offended, and to revoke that consent, at any moment.  Exercise your rights.

5) Argue on the internet

Lord, do I struggle with this one a lot. Part of me feels like I cannot allow people to walk around with incorrect assumptions about my race, or to spread hate, or to diminish the reasons why we're not treated equally in society. However, that is a tiresome thing for someone who does not enjoy arguments or debate. Getting people to change their opinion is often a fools errand. I don't remember who I said it to, but I recall saying that when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, the aim isn't to stop racist police officers being racists. The aim is to make it so people who actively disregard the rights of black people are not protected by the law. So that cop might still be a racist, but rest assured that if they hurt anyone because of their opinions they will face legal consequences.

You don't have to fight to force people into your way of thinking and, in fact, I would discourage it. Instead, pick and choose your battles carefully and take time to check in on yourself before engaging in something that will potentially upset you for a long period of time.

The Struggle

6) Buck stereotypes just for the sake of it.

If you fall into a stereotype that is not a bad thing. You're not proving bigots right, you're not letting anyone down, you are just being yourself and that self happens to match a stereotpye. That is nothing to apologise for. You have nothing to apologise for.

7) Sacrifice your mental health.

Of course this would be the final point I leave you with, because that's what I'm always going on about. But for a lot of us POC (though these points can apply to a person in any minority group that finds them relevant) are part of cultures that do not treat mental health as something serious or something worth talking about. So having to deal with that on top of society not treating mental health equally, and in the wake of some much tragedy within your own and other people's communities, it is easy to attempt to force yourself to deal with difficult emotions all on your own. We live in a world where information is so readily accessible, and because you give a damn about what's going on in the world it's very possible to be overwhelmed with sadness or pain.

It's okay to log off, to disengage for a moment, to take time for self care. It doesn't make you any less empathetic, any less woke, any less intelligent. It just means you're human, and you need to rest.

We live in a world where there are a lot of people who may not see fit to love you for who you are, so to combat that I ask that you love yourself twice as hard in response.


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Saying It Out Loud: Ten Reminders


  • If you need someone to help you feel better, let them know.

If they're someone that lets you lean on them, they will be happy to help. If they aren't, find out if they could be. If it goes poorly, though it will hurt, it can allow you to reassess your relationship. Are you giving more than you get out? Are they giving more than you give back to them? Are they the kind of person that deals well with other people's emotions? Is there another way that the two of you can connect that doesn't cause discomfort for either party? All important assessments for a relationship that you put value into.

  • If there is an imbalance in your relationship, talk about it.

Are you taking more than you give, or giving more than you take? Is the relationship turning unhealthy, maybe you feed off each other's negativity, this person brings you down emotionally, or they don't respect your personal space. You have to tell them these things, have a decent and respectful conversation in which you are clear in your feelings. If they undermine you or try to tell you that your feelings aren't worth discussing then, well, the next step is up to you. I, however, would be in favour of taking a step away from that relationship all together.

  • Just because you love someone who is suffering doesn't mean you have to let them hurt you.

Read that again, and make sure it sinks in. Now one more time. Good? Good.

  • If you think someone looks nice, tell them and maybe put a smile on their face.

I saw someone in a really great Assassin's Creed cosplay on my train the other day and I'm still upset that I didn't tell him it looked great. I could have potentially brightened his day, engaged in a cool conversation, maybe even discovered some mutual friends through the cosplay community. I know I like when people compliment me, even when it sometimes makes me feel awkward. Spread that awkwardly happy feeling around, damn it!

  • Cat-calling does not fall under that umbrella. Be respectful.

Self-explanatory. If you can't tell the difference between "Oi gorgeous" and "Wow, sorry if I'm bothering you but you look great today!" then I'm not sure what to tell you right now, friend. We'll need to sit down for a while and talk that over.

  • Just because you give a compliment does not mean someone is obligated to take it.

If they don't take it the right way, it's not your job to force them to! You gave a compliment, it wasn't appreciated, move on.

  • If you're feeling sad, let it out.

I spoke about this in my last post as well, and that's really the whole theme of this post too. Holding these emotions in is effectively inflicting punishment on yourself. You may think you're avoiding potential conflict, that your feelings are silly or that you're overreacting. Sometimes that's true, honestly, but that doesn't mean you can't speak. Even if it's true, having those irrational thoughts out of your head is a liberating feeling. It allows for clearer, more useful thoughts to work. Because the emotions you bottle up don't disappear, they take up space in your memory and limit the reach of your mind in every moment you're mulling them over, thinking and rethinking.

  • BUT: Be smart about who you vent to.

There are people in all of our lives who, while we love them, would probably make things worse. People who say the wrong thing even though they mean well, who want to argue with you and tell you you're wrong or offer help that you really don't need in that instance. If you can find a group of people or a forum to speak to, great. If you can find one person, great. If you have a journal or a voice recorder, great. Even if you just have a place you can go to talk things out with yourself, great. Not everyone will be able to give you the support you need, and really you shouldn't expect that of everyone.

  • It's okay if you forget.

I'm the one giving you advice, and if it's okay for me to mess up then it's okay for you to do the same. Old habits die hard, everyone has off days, etc. What matters is that you make the effort, that when you have a set back you keep pushing forward, and you don't beat yourself up when you make a mistake.

  • Do not apologise for your feelings.

They are valid, important, and worth a damn. All the things that you are.