I am the only person of color in my office.
It’s weird to think about it, but it’s true. Despite my light-skinned privilege, I still stick out like a dark-featured, curly-haired, big-bootied, afro-latina sore thumb in a sea of alabaster faces, hip-less thighs, light hair and high-SES Jewish and aryan-looking goodness.
Let me be clear here: I like my co-workers. I even enjoy having lunch with them. Talking with them. Sharing the space with them. They aren’t my Bee Eff Eff Jill or anything, but we get along okay.
Now, as you all know, Beyoncé recently had a concert on Sunday and interspersed before and after her performance were some commercials and some dudes in tight pants throwing around a giant disconcertingly rotten lemon. Among the excess of advertisements was this feel-good, get-out-your-blue-jeans-and-hot-dogs-and-freedom-fries-and-bibles Dodge ram commercial. You can see it in all its ‘Merican glory here.
Interestingly enough, among the tanned and weathered faces shown in each image, I counted one person of color (0:47), and three ethnically ambiguous (0:17, 1:24) looking-folks. Now, I am basing this on purely anecdotal observations here, but, I gotta ask…where are all the Mexicans, yo?
I mean…okay, let me back up here. I am not saying that there are no white farmers by any means. I’m just saying that, shit, there’s gotta be a hell of a lot more brown folks harvesting your dinner (assuming you are not living off of ramen and oreo cookies), right?
Anyway, we were discussing the ad over lunch (thanks, Jesus!) and I had brought up the same observation I made here–that it was a super whitewashed ad. Now, normally, I wouldn’t even bother mentioning it because HI, HAVE YOU WATCHED TELEVISION. I’d go blue in the fucking face if I stressed how the media is whitewashed every time someone brought up anything surrounding it.
But because much of the commentary revolving around the discussion was the “raw”, “realness”, and “authenticity” exhibited throughout the commercial, I felt the need to highlight it (no pun intended).
Bizaaaaarely enough, the all-white table shifted uncomfortably, and then changed the subject after a few seconds of some truly awkward silence. Soooo, I did anything a normal person would do and consulted the land of social media and Facebook-status-updated the ever-loving shit out of it.
I talked about how it was good to feel uncomfortable about these topics because it reveals how shitty racism is. People still feel ashamed. And that’s okay. And even within the safe-haven of my own little cyberspace surrounded by a multitude of social justice-loving activist friends, people still have a hard time talking about it. And again, that is okay.
The responses were plentiful, and many were well-thought-out. A lot of folks brought up that it was important to continue the discussion of race and ethnicity, because it exists and we shouldn’t forget about an ongoing occurrence revolving around systematic social oppression. And of those that had already contributed to the dialogue (or had already made their thoughts on the matter heard time and time again) posted hysterically funny gifs and memes about white guilt, regardless of ethnicity, race, religious background, orientation, or gender.
It was like an Internet kumbaya. And it was beautiful.
And then something poignant happen.
My status got deleted.
It got reported as offensive, and then deleted.
I wanted to be mad, but somehow, I felt validated.
Because it further proves that this is an ongoing conversation that needs to be had. Racism doesn’t go away simply because we stop talking about it. Incidentally, that exacerbates the problem. I’m hoping that whoever found the topic “offensive” either takes the time to engage me in dialogue about why they found it offensive, or kindly de-friends me.
Life’s too short to deal with it with your head in the sand.