Expert Level: Oppressed

Recently, a dear friend, Megan Claire Chase a/k/a Warrior Megsie, shared the below video on her social media channels during the month of February, which is also known as Black History Awareness Month. If you don’t already follow her on social media, you should definitely do yourself a favor and follow her now — outside of her experiences with cancer, Megan-Claire also shares her experiences with racism with a frankness and honesty that is refreshing.

I’ve been a short white cis-gendered woman my entire adult life and I was raised in a pretty intense evangelical environment, often described as a bubble. After college and law school, I spent my professional career as a litigator, dealing with the legal system which is still overly male and overly white. In the midst of that, after a divorce from a white man, I married a dark-skinned man from Jamaica and now I’ve two brown-skinned boys.

And so sorting out where I fit and what triggers a response in me has been quite an adventure to understand and identify personally, as a parent, and in the larger sense as an advocate/activist.

In the years I’ve been married to my dark-skinned husband and been the mother of mixed-race brown boys, I have learned that while my experiences as a woman does help me to get a glimpse of what they have and will experience, what I have faced may be termed discrimination, not oppression. Yes, I’ve been sidelined or overlooked or dismissed because of my gender and that helps me to see better what my husband and boys face; at the same time, it’s not in the same ballpark of intensity.

And in the beginning, I was entirely ignorant.

I didn’t see the looks, the gestures, the movements.

My radar wasn’t tuned to hear the nuances or sense the attitudes.

Gently, because my husband is a gentle teacher, my husband began to draw my attention to what he faces every day. The repetition of his family talking about racism and discrimination during family gatherings finally broke through my own reticence to talk about skin color. The necessity to address head on the racial issues in the world with our boys meant that I had to understand them too.

And boy was it uncomfortable.

It still is uncomfortable to see how oppression still exists in this world and affects those who I love. And I hope it is always uncomfortable. What’s comfortable for me now is to call it out. It felt so very awkward in the beginning, but practice does help.

What I have learned a lot about is to listen. When a person of color talks about how something affects them, I have learned that it is not my place to interpret or judge that perspective. Their perspective may not make sense to me, despite how hard I work to understand; at the same time, it’s not my place (or any white person’s place) to judge or interpret.

It is my job to LISTEN.

It is YOUR job to LISTEN.

Because those who have been and are oppressed, they see. They know.

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