2013 has been the year of work (nothing physical of course, don’t be silly.)
It’s been the year of internal work – working on The Me. I thought I had spent the last 29 years figuring out who I am, but that isn’t wholly true…pieces of it, sure. Maybe? Sometimes. A little bit.
But I have definitely spent the last ten months figuring it out. And…it’s been a ride.
It’s a simple little starter phrase this “I am” business. Just a subject and a linking verb. Three letters.
In these 29 years, I’ve thought it was the “I” part of this phrase that gives me the most trouble – all the pieces of The Me that combine into Me-ness. I was mistaken. Turns out, I am not, generally speaking, lacking in self-awareness.
So it is that pesky “am” part of the phrase that gives me all the trouble. Because the sentence starter isn’t “I was” or “I will be” or “I wish to be” or even, “I’m not”, it is “I Am.” Now. This moment.
I am finding (see what I did there?) that often the best way to be fully honest in an I Am statement when it’s giving me pause is to start with the basics.
So that’s what I will do:
1. I am caucasian. Yep, that’s true. Pretty basic. Particularly pale actually. I freckle in the summer. I get this three next to my bottom lip only in the Summer and I’ve named them Claude, Nanette, and Beatrice. But I digress…
2. I am angry.
Yep, angry white chick….I wasn’t going for original, just honest.
Something I also am is sensitive to inequality. I notice the tiny injustices, the gaps, the biases, and ultimately, I see the world so clearly as simply unfair.
In a fair world, working hard would mean you have enough money to feed yourself and your kids. In fair world, everyone would be given opportunity to do this. In a fair world, it wouldn’t matter if you were Lebanese, Hot Pink, Transgendered, or slightly tanner than makes Grandpa Horace comfortable, you would get a fair shot. Because that’s what it means to live in a fair world – All ye humans, where ‘ere you hatched, here is the opportunity of life, now sow and reap! Enjoy!
But it doesn’t take much looking around to see that this just ain’t the way it is.
I am aware of the unfair nature of the world. And consequently, I am aware inequality. And I am bothered by it. And my chosen way to decrease this particular brand of World Suck is through education, through teaching. I am a teacher with a cause and a purpose. I am. I am. I am.
And yet all of those things being true of me in this moment, and me in so many other moments before, does not mean that I haven’t lived a charmed life. Oh, I have. I was made freshly aware today.
A couple hours ago I had my very first first-hand experience with racism. (I know, I know, it’s been a charmed life…) To be even more honest, it wasn’t entirely first-hand, but it certainly wasn’t second-hand either. What do you call that? 1 and a half-hand? 1.38 hand? I’m unsure of the math involved here…as is typical. (Update: I AM not good at math…shocker.)
In the past and in the present I have dated and been close friends with a whole myriad of people who were either non-white or appeared to be non-white. While there have been plenty of occasions on which one of these people would turn to me and say thateveryone was looking at them because they were the only [insert race here] in the room, I’ve usually reassured these people. Most of the time, the reality was that the person was merely self-conscious. No one was staring or, frankly, even recognized them as the one [insert race here] in the room.
And when an old boyfriend or even The Manpanion has sniffed out some sort of biased treatment, I’ve always tried to give the benefit of the doubt and not exacerbate the situation. People are complex and complicated. All of them. Perhaps the person is having a bad day, perhaps the person doesn’t like me because I’m a redhead, and what have you.
Yes, it sounds a little like rationalization. That’s probably because it is. Because I like to try to see all the sides of any given situation and because, though I try to pretend otherwise, I actually believe that people are basically good.
And I still do.
But today, I am angry. I recognize that in today’s situation with the Manpanion there were multiple things at play. People are complex as always. But one of those things at play was just good old fashioned bigotry.
And I thought I knew what that was – bigotry. Today I realize that I never did, not really anyway. Because it had never been hurled at me before. And I know that some old grumpy waiter in a restaurant is such a small, small thing.
And I guess that’s precisely why I am spit-fire, Rocky-boxing-match-warm-up, rarin’ angry. Because it was a small, small thing. A rude waiter who assumed my brilliant, genius, perfect-math-score-on-the-GRE, knows-more-words-than-the-English-teacher-sitting-across-from-him Manpanion couldn’t read the menu in English is a small, small thing. Things that are a big deal: genocide, apartheid, world hunger. This is a drop in the bucket. No real harm done. No one died. Bombs weren’t send to Russia. Puppies were not kicked.
Nope. Foul. I’m throwing the Crap Flag. I say, Harm done. It sucked. Super sucked. Mega sucked. Quadruple Mega Sucked. Sucked so bad the only word I know to call it is Sucked.
And there’s nothing to do be done about it but be mad – let the anger wash over me and out of me as a I write this. (And probably once more as I edit this…)
So this is me, right now, being as I currently Am in the only thing any of us actually possess – now.
And my now is pissed.