When I was in first grade I loved the Ninja Turtles. This is a time slightly before the explosion of Power Rangers and before anyone here really watched anime at a younger age. The US back then largely relied on it’s own animation and guess what cartoon had gone from the small screen to the movie theater recently?
I remember it was cold outside, well, as cold as it gets in Texas. And I remember there were some kids talking about playing Ninja Turtles in this little playground just before you walked onto the soccer field. There were only three of them and I wanted to be Donatello. So I asked.
And the reply came back from one of the kids that the Turtles weren’t black. Sounds like someone should have taught the little fucker his colors. The Turtles were all shades of green. None of them had a “race” the way humans thought of it and it seemed odd that a kid would define something that obviously has no race as “not black” or “white”. Looking back I can totally understand it now. To that kid and a lot of other kids of other races, white is default.
Before I go on, I would like to quote someone off of a forum that I know and what they said in a recent thread.
I’m sick of trying to explain this to white boys on the internet (or whatever inevitable “actually, I’m not white, I’m..” outlier) who fancy themselves Spock bracing against all the “emotional” discontent of minorities.
They don’t get it. And worse than simply not getting it, they think they have a better grasp of “it” than us.” It” being our own experience. And suddenly, we find ourselves in Robot-Logic Land where any argumentation less scrupulous than a Master’s thesis need not apply because human experience is never muddied by anything other than numbers and rationality. This from the same sort of people who sub to some fat fuck nerd on Youtube for “telling it like it is” with nothing but anecdotes and Cheeto-powered rage.
This isn’t to say that whites are evil or that all whites are causing the problem. I don’t have an issue with anyone based on skin color. What I do have issue with, as the quote kind of points out, is the idea that my experiences as a black person and the experiences of someone who is white are the same.
In the same way that two resumes that are identical with just male and female names will be treated differently, being black is going to make people make assumptions about you. Even other black people. It’s going to change how you’re treated in certain situations and how you act. I’ve come to realize that when dealing with people I don’t know I will often try my best to look as nonthreatening as possible, to speak softer than I normally do and the like. It’s not something that was done consciously at first—it just happened. This is the way that garners the most respect or keeps me out of trouble the most. It’s a defense mechanism.
It feels like people react to you as if they’re afraid of you a lot of the time. These attitudes about race, some of them contradictory, are ingrained in the culture of our country from a time starting back from when Columbus landed on a piece of dirt near here and decided that the people there didn’t matter.
And this isn’t just an issue with race, it can be applied to other things. A friend of mine recently posted an article on her Facebook page about street abuse of women and people acted like she was overreacting. When it comes to women everyone suddenly wants to point out how easily they actually have it; like somehow having doors held for you or not having to pay for all your own meals and movies would somehow make up for the cat calling, wage gap and the way that people don’t value your fucking opinions.
I’m tired of people deciding the narrative without listening to the other side of things. I’m tired of it being “too soon” to talk about these things or “me being too sensitive because the issue is too close”. Who better to talk about the experiences I’ve had than me? Why shouldn’t women speak out against guys thinking they have the right to treat them like property?
What the people do this are doing isn’t just avoiding the problem. They’re adding to it, but not addressing what’s there and deflecting discussion of it you’re telling the person who faces the issue that they don’t matter, their pain isn’t important, their experiences aren’t your problem, that the abuses should go on and they should just deal with it.
“That’s just the way things are” right?
Luckily, when I was in first grade the teacher pulled me aside after she heard what had happened with me and the other kids and she talked to me about skin color and how it didn’t matter. The discussion was really brief and simple. I was six, so I couldn’t take much more than brief and simple. The one thing I remember about it was how she told me that we’re different, but it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. It’s corny, but it’s true. Whether you’re brown, black, white or a mutated turtle, it’s what’s inside that counts.