Five Minute Friday: PRACTICE

Five Minute Friday Practice


I read two things within the past week that had passages about eerily similar experiences experienced by girl children of color. Here they are:

4-year-old Kelly

From a post written by Kelly Wickham-Hurst as part of the #31DaysIBPOC (Indigenous, Black and People of Color) Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars.

We walked together the couple of blocks, through the park, and got in line at the ice cream shop. We weren’t there very long when a white woman approached us. A more accurate word would be accosted. She accosted us. The way she walked up to us I assumed daddy knew her. He did not. Almost immediately, she was yelling.

I didn’t grow up in a family of yellers. Naturally, she scared me. I didn’t identify, until years later, that this is what started my panic attacks. Her face was red and she was pointing at him and then at me. Since I was on his shoulders it seemed like her finger was directly in my face.

“Where did you steal that baby from?” she screamed.

3-year-old Anuradha

From Anuradha Bhagwati’s book, “Becoming“:

I was about three when Dad was driving us one day along winding suburban roads. Being economists, Mom and Dad could tell you where everything in the world came from, like cars and refrigerators and crayons. If you were sensible, you drove only Japanese or German cars, because they were better made. This was why we had a Toyota.

I was in the back, strapped behind a seat belt, reading. Mom was in the passenger seat. Dad had stopped driving. Maybe it was a red light. Maybe he was lost. A car sped up from behind us and screeched to a stop alongside us. A man was making big movements with his arms. Dad rolled down his window. The man’s face looked like boiling water. He was yelling at Dad. I didn’t understand what his words meant, but they scared me. I was too young to know much, but I knew that this man felt like he was better than Dad. And this meant we were different.

I looked away from the man’s face, which was red and white at the same time, because he reminded me of monsters in my picture books. Dad didn’t say anything. Something uncomfortable was moving in my belly, like a stomachache when I was sick.

The man suddenly drove away. Dad and Mom were still quiet, then they began whispering in Gujarati. I felt something new rising up inside me. I felt shame. I wanted to be as powerful as the light-skinned monster man, and I did not want to be like Dad.

Humanity in Practice

How does a prompt like “practice” factor into these two little girls’ stories? I would be naive to suggest that these red-faced human beings spewing hatred and ignorance could transform into kind, humane people by taking a class, reading a book, meditating or in some other way trying to better themselves.

I also, in thinking about this prompt and these two people — Kelly who I know through social media and advocacy and Anuradha who I only know through her book — kept going back to what such encounters at such young ages did to and about the actual things they chose to practice.

Did they take up ballet and discover the joy of dance? Or did they instead adapt some deep-down conviction that they were somehow undeserving of the freedom that comes with creativity? Did these types of interactions carve away some essential building block of confidence and change the course of their lives forever?

I also wondered what those of us who have white privilege (and we all do if we are white) can do in 2019 to change things. If you’re reading this, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that you aren’t one of the red-faced people. However, the moments in our lives and the choices with which we are presented every moment give us an opportunity to build up rather than tear down.

***end of five minutes***

I have been grappling for the last few days about personal feedback I received regarding a message I was responsible for approving. After reflecting for several days, I finally (and belatedly) got to the point where I accepted that I had been inaccurate at a minimum and possibly utterly wrong. Here was the inner monologue that took place before I got there:

But I meant well.

But I wrote an entire post on why we should talk about white privilege.

But I don’t use grocery dividers anymore in case it’s perceived as a microaggression.

But I didn’t intend to offend.

But it was just a few words.

But I’m reading “White Fragility” for goodness sakes. I’M TRYING TO GET IT.

Red-faced tirades aren’t the only way damage is done. Quietly abandoning what we know to be true hurts others also.

Five Minute Friday Practice

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) Also I blew the five-minute limit this week by a bunch. Feel free to go on a red-faced tirade against me about THAT. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Five Minute Friday: PRACTICE

  1. I had never seen a person of color before, but I read and heard that people not like me couldn’t drink out of water fountains and they couldn’t eat at lunch counters. I was probably 10 years old but I remember crying buckets over how unfair it was and it broke my heart to know how rejection must hurt. Racism still hurts my heart and I can’t understand why anyone thinks skin color or race has anything to do with being human.

    • I know, Jane, and I appreciate your pure and kindhearted approach. This is all exceptionally difficult to dissect. My paternal grandfather owned a bar, so (and this part and ONLY this part of this story is funny), I have been frequenting bars since I was a little girl. Anyway, his bar — until he passed away in the early 80s — was segregated. White people in front, black people in back. Of course it was wrong (and illegal). It was one of those small town things were people said, “well everyone still does it so obviously everyone’s OK with it. Of course it wasn’t OK but …. it left a lasting impression on me. So much still to improve upon in our world. Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspective.

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