I am privileged

Saturday, 1 July 2017 10:41 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
[personal profile] carose59
"It Was Sarcasm. I Won't Do It Again."*

-:- -:- -:- -:-

I was just taking the privilege quiz only I had to stop because statement two made me laugh uncontrollably.

Statement two is: "I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color."

The correct response is, "I don't know! I didn't ask!"

Because there were these girls, see, these black girls, who would circle me, back me into a corner and play the "let's pretend to be friends with this loser, then mock her when she falls for it" game. Were they doing it because I was white or because everybody else did it? Hell, it was a game the white girls played, why shouldn't they play it too? Or maybe it was my stuck-up, smarter-than-everybody else aura. (Fuck it, I was smarter than most of them, but I wasn't stuck-up, I was terrified and weird.)

This is not a situation where you can say, "Excuse me, but why are you doing this? I might need to know later." Mostly you can't do that because they won't tell you; they're busy pretending to like you and they'll deny they're doing anything at all but being friendly.

Do I sound paranoid?

I don't know why, when I was in the fourth grade, every time I went out for recess a little black girl in a lower grade—second? Third? Again, I didn't ask. It didn't seem appropriate, or particularly important at the time—I didn't ask why she came over and kicked me. Not just once; she'd spend the whole recess kicking me, if she wasn't stopped and I had no idea how to stop her. She was smaller than me—I was tall back then, and older. (Older than her; I wasn't older than I am now. That would make no sense at all.)

I have only the vaguest memories of this and they might not be mine. My mother worked in the school library and saw this happening from the window. The school administration wouldn't do anything about it because, apparently, part of reparations included little black girls being allowed to kick random white girls with no explanation. (I don't recall it hurting; what I recall is being utterly baffled.) My mother finally came out and dragged her away from me. I don't know if it happened again. I have blocked out practically all of that year of school, which you can maybe see why.

These incidents led to me being afraid of black people.

Mind you, I was already afraid of people in general—from the third grade on I was bullied by first white girls, then white boys as well. The incidents with the black girls prefriending me (Look! I made new word! It means: that thing people—usually girls—do when they pretend to be your friend so they can later mock you in a more personal way [because you've told them your secrets, or even just your likes and dislikes] and add how stupid you were for believing them).

Where was I? Oh, yes, that incident didn't happen until the eighth grade. In the meantime I had a lot of the same treatment from the white girls, but there was a big difference: I knew those girls! I'd been going to school with them since first grade, I'd been friends with them. (Why that changed, what happened exactly, I don't know. But being hurt by people you know makes more sense than being hurt by strangers. There's logic to it, it's not just chaotic. It's horrible, but it's less scary.) I didn't even know these black girls; I couldn't figure out what I could have done to make them want to hurt me.

There were no cultural differences between me and the white girls, nothing of any significance; that could not be said of me and the black girls. (It's really culture that causes misunderstandings, not race.) I seemed not to be able to talk to anyone without saying something wrong (smarter, stuck-up) and if I couldn't do it in a culture I understood, what chance did I have in one I knew nothing about?

I think that's when I started to freeze. Don't move, don't make eye contact, don't speak, just wait until they get bored and leave. Because running wasn't an option, and neither was fighting back. I couldn't even be rude, even though everything I said was interpreted as rudeness anyway, stuck-upness, superiority.

I think of myself as having a lot of privilege because I came from people who read a lot and thought outside themselves. With a high school education, I can talk to people and have them think I went to college. But I'm still mostly scared all the time because I do not understand other people at all, and that target feels like it's still on my back.

*John Dortmunder

(no subject)

Date: Saturday, 1 July 2017 04:53 pm (UTC)
catalenamara: (Pele)
From: [personal profile] catalenamara
“Prefriending” – thanks for inventing that word; it perfectly describes my own experiences. It’s just horrifying the way children treat each other and the way adults never get involved. Or if they do, which happened in my case, it just gets much much worse.

And boy, the way you described being accused as being stuck-up – I got that All The Time, while inside I was freaking terrified of the other girls.

Children are cruel. No getting around it. I remember myself as a sunny, outgoing little kid who was always ready to make new friends. School wasn’t too bad to start with. Even though I skipped first grade, I was fine in second. But one month into second grade they came into the classroom, took me out, and dumped me into third grade, which was in another school way across town. I was immediately the target for bullies because of my age difference and because they viewed me as “teacher’s pet”, who hated the fact I always got 100% on every test. Because of their physical violence, I began reverse-cheating on school tests, deliberately answering some questions wrong to avoid getting a 100% grade and so avoid being hurt on the playground.

We were living in a town directly on the Mexican border, and I was one of only two white girls my age in town. The other white girl was a stuck up little bitch whose parents viewed me as a ‘friend for hire’ for their daughter, while letting me know in every possible way their family was ever so much superior to ours, as they had a nice house with a pool and a mother-in-law house in the back, and their daughter had a record player and every single toy there was. (And she treated me the same way she treated her toys.) And my family didn’t have any of those things.

My Mexican friends my same age in my neighborhood were my true friends, and once I got out of school I’d immediately head to join them. So things, while unpleasant at school, were OK after school.

Then, toward the end of 5th grade, we moved 400 miles north to a mostly white town. And suddenly everyone was my enemy. I was younger; I was “weird”; I was a preacher’s kid. The miniskirt had arrived and my mother was appalled. She dressed me deliberately in oldfashioned “modest” clothing and when I got to high school she wouldn’t let me shave my legs. Basically, I was “Carrie”.

I was subjected to constant bullying, physical and verbal at school. My parents had let me walk to and from school for awhile, but at one point started driving me instead because it was too dangerous to walk home from school; there was frequently a group of girls who would lie in wait to beat me up.

By the time I graduated from high school I could barely speak to anyone and could barely look anyone in the eye. I also developed a phobia about being outdoors in any place where anyone who knew me might see me. I remember feeling more confident walking down Manhattan streets than I ever have being outside in my own neighborhood. I once had an “after the fact” panic attack. I knew that a friend’s husband worked in a building a couple blocks away from where I worked. But when this friend told me, “oh by the way, a few days ago my husband was looking out of his window at work and saw you walking down the street”, my heart starting racing so fast I thought I was going to pass out. I also developed what has turned into a lifelong unease of being in any place (such as Provo, UT, where I stayed for a night while on a road trip) with an exclusively white population. I live in a non-white neighborhood. I work at a company where as many as five different languages are spoken. Until I got into fandom, I’d only ever had a couple of white friends (or, I should say, friendly acquaintances.)

On a fundamental level I don’t really understand white culture (though I am highly sensitive to privileged classist racist remarks and micro-aggressions by white people, particularly against Hispanics). But I’m separated by decades from Hispanic culture. The only culture I belong in is fandom.

Like you, I still feel that target is on my back.

July 2017

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