I Am a Woman of Color, and I Am Not Part of the Movement

A different perspective

Something about this summer’s events hasn’t sat right with me for a while now. At the very beginning, when the protests of June started, something felt different. Something felt off.

Though confused, infuriated, and saddened by everything happening, I felt a huge distance from what I was seeing on the News and Social Media.

I could not shake this feeling, but I also did not know where it was coming from. People standing up, raising their voices, making it clear that how people of color were being treated was wrong — it had to be a good thing, right?

For some reason, to me, it felt like it wasn’t.

And I wouldn’t have any real clarity on this gut feeling up until the moment I had a heated discussion with my parents about racism.

We shouldn’t be put in the spotlight.

A Black Family in 90s Germany

My family immigrated to the South of Germany in 1994. Though we weren’t the only people migrating from Africa to Germany in the 90s, it would be a long while until I would see other people of color that weren’t related to us.

If you were looking at our situation from the outside, although heartbreaking, my family had a lot going for them. If there had been a checklist of things you’d need, to be able to integrate more smoothly, we checked all of them:

  • My father already knew german and had a job, since he had been working there before having to look for my family during the Rwandan Genocide
  • We knew people that not only helped us come to Germany, but also helped us integrate more easily
  • My brother was fairly young and would be able to to learn the language quickly
  • Both of my parents were well-educated and my mother, having been a teacher, would be quick to learn the language as well

But it was neither easy nor was it smooth.

It was hard.

And it took decades. To this day it doesn’t feel like it’s over.

As a child, I was very shy and kept to myself. I loved to read and write and listen to music. I loved school and wanted to learn as much as I could. There was nothing special about me, I just wanted to be by myself.

But it didn’t matter. Because I was different.
And when you’re different, even if you’re the quietest person in the room, people treat you like you’re screaming.

I wasn’t able to be anything else. I was the color of my skin. My weird hair. My different looking family. The languages we spoke.

I didn’t exist.

And it didn’t matter if I was 4 years old, or 14 years old. I understood that I was different. People made sure I knew. Didn’t matter if they were nice about it, or even loved it. I didn’t want to be different, but I also didn’t have a choice.

The Issue with standing up for yourself

A few weeks ago my parents and I went to visit my brother to spend the weekend together. It had been a while since we had seen each other. I was glad to be able to talk to them, but as for everything that was going on, we would have to talk about it as well.

Still, I didn’t think we would actually touch on those events because, to be honest, we didn’t actually talk about racism that often.
It was like our daily breakfast. Something that if it happened to you, you didn’t bring it inside. You took it off like a coat — or a dirty pair of shoes.

What our children need, is to feel like they belong. Not like they need to fight for their right to exist.

We were talking, when my father mentioned a documentary he recently saw where a white man dressed up as a black man to see how people would treat him. It was about how people would act nice around him but would make sure that he wouldn’t stay at their establishment by demanding a ridiculously high price.

My father was saying that it was some kind of proof of how “they” were seeing us and that we should watch it.

I was furious.

This was something I fought from when I was very little. I refused to paint the world in black and white because I knew that people, regardless of where they came from, were capable of good and bad.

But my parents had a different idea of reality. It was as if any racist act towards them was recorded on a scoreboard. And things weren’t looking pretty.

Though I didn’t want to I wanted them to see what people were capable of. How especially these protests were showing us how many people were actually on our side.

But when we started to talk about those that were standing up for the injustices towards black people all over the world, my mother said something that struck me:

“We shouldn’t be put in the spotlight. Because that will make them come for us again.”

I didn’t know what to say. Even though I didn’t always agree with how she had decided to see the world, I couldn’t blame her. She wasn’t devious, she wasn’t racist herself, she didn’t hate white people. She was scared.

And her thinking that this entire thing was bad, was a coping mechanism.

Not being able to agree on whether or not a documentary could be a bad example or proof that that’s the reality we live in, made me realize something.

Even though we had lived through the same things, that didn’t mean that we had lived the same reality. And that meant that it was their right to think what they needed to think, to be able to cope with how this country had treated them for the last two decades.

And that applied to me as well.

I had chosen to see that there had to be more out there, than what this little town could show us. That it didn’t matter what had happened in the past, because there were people out there, that did not care what we looked like or where we came from or what we were doing here.

The good had so much more weight than the bad ever could. If I wouldn’t have seen the world like that, I wouldn’t have survived.

I do see the need for change, I have seen and lived the reason we need it. But I am also one of the many people that have tried and tried and tried, to be accepted as a human being, when people just didn’t want to see us as such.

We do need change. All people of color do.

But what we also need, is to not be treated differently.

What our children need, is to feel like they belong. Not like they need to fight for their right to exist.

An alternative

I don’t want to dismiss the change that needs to happen at all.

But maybe we should think about how we cannot heal if we choose to be sad, mad, and confused. If we choose to teach our children the need to fight and keep fighting. If we don’t acknowledge the power of love and understanding.

If we are the ones stomping away all those years of trying to be treated the same.

There is a need for change. Nobody can deny that. But I feel like we should put more time and effort into the way we want to set this change in motion.

There also are a lot of ways we can ignite this change. And maybe not all of them are right for all of us.

Nevertheless, we should support one another, regardless of whether we want to do it standing up, or still trying to find a place in this world.

UX Designer based in Germany. I write about Mental Health, UX, Psychology and Self. https://linktr.ee/collectivemmind

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