So I’ve been doing this racial justice work for a little while and most days think I might have some kind of clue, while never forgetting I also have all kinds of blind spots. Remembering that I have blind spots and noticing them are two different kinds of things.
Today a book took the blinders off another one.
I’m making my way through Nice Racism by Robin Diangelo. In it she writes about credentialing, one of the ways people of European ancestry behave to prove we’re not racist. This includes things like talking about our Black Friend (or child), or that we live in diverse neighborhoods, or that we don’t even notice race. The one that caught me up short was our attempts to create “false kinship” with Black people we don’t know or don’t know well. It’s like we want to go to the party without anyone noticing we weren’t invited.
The thing is, I do this. The way I’m aware of is subtle, but that almost makes it worse. I try to connect with Black and Brown people I pass on the street with a little eye contact and a little head nod. I learned about this by noticing BIPOC people sometimes doing this with each other to (I imagine) create zones of connection and safety as they go through their days. I do it because I want them to think I’m okay. At best this is intrusive and rude. At worst it disrupts that zone of safety.
So now I will stop doing this.
I won’t stop smiling at people when that little spark of humanity leaps between strangers on the street, but I will stop pretending I know how to dap* with Black and Brown people. Really, I was the only person I was ever close to fooling.
* Dap is a friendly gesture of greeting, agreement, or solidarity between two people that has become popular in Western cultures, particularly since the 1970s, originating from African American communities. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giving_dap)