A couple months ago I met a group of mama bears. We were all attending a seminar on transracial families. Many of them had stories to share, statements to make. I mostly stayed quiet, not quite sure if the politically correct term to use when describing a group of people who either are directly from, or have ancestors from, Central and South America, was Hispanic or Latino. There were adoptive parents who had a child from Mexico... they said they would describe their child as Latino. The speaker snuck in the word Hispanic. Instead of ASKING, I chose to not use any words. I probably just grunted.
I learned lots of amazing things at the seminar (although I'm still confused about so very much!), but one of the biggest things I discovered was that I need to work a bit more on the mama bear thing. On the vocal thing. On the speaking up thing. I have to learn the history, I have to learn the present, I have to learn the perspectives. I have to learn how to speak... not only about all that I have learned, but DAMN, I have to be okay with speaking about those things that I believe in.
Truth? I'm finding myself repeating: it's okay that I don't sound scholarly on the topic, it's okay that I practice, it's okay that I make mistakes, it's okay that I move forward and gain knowledge from those who have information to share. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.
One of those links I shared in my latest post- the one about having something racist stuck in your teeth- it struck a chord with me. It's not that I'm 100% in favor of each and every word- but that stuff at the end, when the speaker said: "... that bit by bit, if we can consider it
and are mindful of it, we can shift away from taking it as an indictment
of our goodness and move towards taking it as a gesture of respect and
an act of kindness when someone tell us that we've got something racist
stuck in our teeth."
Do I think that the fake Harlem Shake was intended to offend anyone? That someone was being vulgar in thought and moved forward in an effort to subjugate an entire people by mocking a dance? That the preschool directors across America are trying to turn our children into bigots?
NO. No I do not.
But I do think, I do think, that we're talking about a dance that was started by a minority group who historically has been oppressed... was respected by that group... and was then grabbed by the majority and changed into something ridiculous while keeping the name of the original dance intact. We're talking about something that didn't feel right in my gut when I watched it, that made me wonder what the people who ARE Harlem were pondering as they watched the videos that were deemed hilarious amongst White people. To hump the air, to act like animals, to make no sense at all while calling it the Harlem Shake. A dance in it's original form that, after I spent a mere few minutes on the internet, found to be considered an art form by many.
Does someone have to be blatant to be racist? No. Jamie Utt wrote (although not specific to racism), "While it is not done with malice (usually the opposite, as we are
appropriating because we like something), cultural appropriation still
is insidious in the way that it adds to the constant micro aggressions
that people of Color experience in the U.S." It's the constant micro aggressions that Mr. Utt speaks of- that I hear of- that gets to me. This raises the question of the modern definition of racism vs what I knew racism to be growing up.
This topic, these articles and videos I shared, the intent was to show what I've been thinking about. What lots of people are thinking about. Enough folks have said this phenomenon is not okay that we need to listen to those voices.
Just listen. Talk about it. Consider it. Hell. What do I know? Maybe the fake Harlem Shake isn't racist. But maybe it is.