White Girl In a Black World

July 13, 2016 — 76 Comments

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I grew up white in a black world, and my childhood was rife with turmoil.

I was an outcast, taunted and beat up. I was vilified because I dared to love the black boy upstairs. By the time I was 11, white people called me “nigger lover” and black people ostracized me.

I belonged nowhere.

We were together for years – until that one day in junior high school, white boys chased us down deserted train tracks. My screams for help echoed sharply off the metal rails, as they beat on his arms with a crow bar. Until one broke.

We were never together again.

We have kept track of each other our whole lives. The scar tissue around our hearts preserves a wary distance between us.

Still, I dream of being reunited with him someday.

 

The great love of my life before I got married was a dark brown man I spent many years with.

He was undeniably gorgeous. Far better looking than I was or will ever be. One evening, on an overcrowded D train, a young black woman screamed at me for daring to be with this beautiful man, ugly fucking white bitch that I was.

Trapped in that subway car, I had no escape. He tried to subdue her, but she only screamed louder, said uglier things. I folded into myself, rendered mute by her attack. I was ashamed of my skin color. Again.

I stared down, hot tears dripping into my lap.

We broke up soon after that.

 

My childhood in a black NYC housing project has left me with a paradoxical mix of emotions and loyalties.

Although I grew up fearful of being persecuted because of my white skin, I also developed a fierce allegiance towards African-Americans, an allegiance that informs how I live my life today.

I loathe racism.

When I drive into Newark for my community service project, and people remark, “I wouldn’t even park my car there,” I SEETHE.  They are not saying that based on statistical data on street crime in Newark, which may even indicate that car jackings happen frequently there.

They just mean, “Newark is full of black people.”

 

I was sexually assaulted twice in my life. Once at a college frat party, and once in a seedy New York shooting gallery. My personal mythology tells me that heroes and villains come in ALL colors; that an Ivy League white boy is just as likely to rape me as a black drug dealer, and you will NEVER convince me otherwise.

 

My painful memories are valid. But I have not spent my entire adulthood fearful that I will die for the color of my skin.

I have had several skirmishes with police over the years, more than I care to think about. Yet, I never had to worry THAT I MIGHT NOT MAKE IT HOME ALIVE.

 

Recent events have left me completely paralyzed in my ability to write anything.

This is not writer’s block. I have lost my belief in the power of the written word.

I’m plagued by the thought that not just my work, but all creative expression, is in vain when the world suffers such tragedy.

What do my stories even matter, in the face of these larger, horrific events?

 

I am an inner city project girl at heart. I have the fear, rage, defiance and survival instincts of a project girl, and always will.

And yet, I am undeniably WHITE. To even suggest that I understand what it means to live life in black skin is offensive. I was able to shed my project girl past.

And I am alive, largely due to the color of my skin, whereas most of the people I grew up with are dead today.

 

For weeks I have walked around uneasily, with a cold knot of fear in my stomach.

Everyone is ranting on, and no one is listening. People are quoting statistics as if it matters whether one, or one million, dead bodies lie on slabs.

The Civil War was caused by racism. And I know it’s going to happen again. Right here, on American soil, we will be a nation divided, and make no mistake about it –

There will be blood.

 

I’M SO ANGRY listening to self-aggrandizing politicians drone on about change.

I AM TIRED OF THEIR WORDS.

I want to don army fatigues, dash into the fray like a warrior, and physically put my body in between black men and bullets; between policeman and bullets.

But I am a coward, just as I was 35 years ago, when I stopped loving the black boy upstairs.

 

 

 

The music of my childhood was 70’s R&B. I have loved and lived with dark skinned men. My first true love was black. My first best friend was black. The first house parties I attended were all black.

Black culture feels like home to me.

I’m going to get CRUCIFIED for saying that, because of my white privilege. How DARE I appreciate the positive aspects of a culture without suffering from oppression? If I talk about my love for rap music, dark-skinned men, soul food, cornrow braids – I’m appropriating a culture.

The world has become so divisive on the issue of race, I’m afraid of expressing my love of black culture. I feel shame, again, because of my white skin.

I am not entitled to love Black America because I am not willing to die for her.

Yet try as I might to deconstruct this, to make it more politically palatable, I cannot. I cannot stop loving black culture anymore than I can stop loving my son. It’s embedded in me on a cellular level.

No matter how angry it makes you, you can’t take that from me.

 

And so now I am finally AWAKE. And I will fight.

My weapons will be to speak out against anyone who says something racist and ignorant. I will forbid adults to spew their racist rhetoric in front of my child, ever.

I will speak out on social media, instead of hiding in desperate avoidance.

And I am moving my family out of this white washed, homogenous suburban neighborhood. I will raise my child in a culturally diverse neighborhood, because he deserves better than this.

 

 

I wrote this despite my overarching belief that right now, creative expression is useless.

I wrote this because until I did, I could write nothing else.

I wrote this because although I am afraid, I must do SOMETHING. And this is all I have.

I wrote this because I KNOW that fear is built into the racist society in which we live, and used to control ALL of us.

I wrote this because although I may not be racist, I enable racism EVERY DAY by participating in a racist society. 

I wrote this because maybe, MAYBE, someone else who has been asleep will awaken now, like I finally have.

I wrote this because despite all my fear, inaction and shame,

there is a speck of hope

for the possibility of change.

 

Click below if you’d like to hear my spoken word piece, “White Girl.”

 

Talk to me.
We all need desperately to start talking, and I’m REALLY listening. 

Join me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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76 responses to White Girl In a Black World

  1. 
    Gretchen Kellaway July 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    This is why I wrote about white privilege. This is why I spoke up on the love I feel for those I grew up with. I never felt so scared and confused in my life because I grew up in a town so racially diverse I never could imagine living any other way.

    We are unicorns- Samara… you and I.

  2. 

    It sounds like you never stopped loving him, Precious. I kind of hope you find him again, and the romantic part of me hopes he never stopped loving you.

    I have a different kind of privilege, as well as white privilege – I have the luxury of living in a country were people being slaughtered for the colour of their skin is SO rare as to be almost unheard of. I live in a country where the police are (if not respected, then) tolerated, on the whole. I live in a country where we are bound by bureaucracy and procedure, and equality and diversity policies and a very well-aware population of white people who KNOW FULL WELL that racism is an utterly unacceptable way of life.

    That said, I live in a country where racism thrives anyway, in other ways. We have the issue of people wanting other whites out – namely the Polish – and it’s not even so much people’s skin colour any more, just national stereotypes and nastiness.

    But not shootings. Not repeated, awful shootings.

    I’m glad you wrote this. Every time someone writes, my mind is opened a little more to the harsh realities of the world I want to move into, where…for the non-reason of skin-colour, a person might easily die.

    • 

      I live in the hope that America will someday be more like England in that respect.

      And I never did stop loving that boy, who’s now a man. We have unfinished business, and I think someday our paths will cross again. I like to believe so. xoxoxoxo

  3. 

    This write is proof that creative expression is far from useless. Thanks for this. The problem with this wonderful insightful post is the same as other great writing on this subject. It doesn’t get into the right hands i.e. the people that really need to read it, hear it, believe it don’t ever see it. But don’t give up…you have something to say and you say it well.

    • 

      And that’s part of why I feel so helpless. So helpless that publishing this has left me in tears.
      Maybe, even ONE person who doesn’t understand that we need to take action, will read this and do something? Anything?
      This is my hope. Thank you for reading. xoxoxo

  4. 

    I have read often that Toronto is the most ethnically diverse and integrated city in the world – just a thought. 🙂

    Your writing is being heard – don’t stop. It seems to me that that trumped up hairnet has given a lot of people an excuse to say (and sometimes do) whatever bigoted and racist crap they want.

  5. 
    Jessie, FlusteredMom July 13, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    So beautifully written. Your story is so sad but filled with so much love. Thank you for sharing. Especially now. Like others, all the hate is beating on my heart. ❤

  6. 

    I’ve said this before in commenting on your other posts – I am a black man who knows nothing real about black life and culture in America because I grew up in an affluent white family in Canada.

    It’s why the mixture of anger, rage, fear, and despondency I possess right now are paralyzing, for reasons similar to what you describe. I want to see something done but what can I do? I’m up here in Canada where cops don’t routinely kill blacks – or anyone else for that matter. Certainly there’s racism – but it doesn’t lead to folks getting shot.

    Because of the colour of my skin, I feel implicated in the fate of blacks in America. I travel to the US regularly and it pisses me off to think that if I am not wearing a suit or something that I might be mistaken for a thug and wind up shot by someone with a gun and a badge. In my life I never wanted to have to worry about that. Most of my family are American and I want to visit them without this racist shit dogging me.

    I am so sick and tired of the racist bullshit that follows these events. I didn’t want to write my post about these latest shootings but after seeing the umpteenth person quoting statistics about more white people being shot by cops (Americans realize that whites make up 70% of the US population right?), about black on black crime, about how saying black lives matter is somehow anti-cop, and saying that all lives matter, I couldn’t fucking take it anymore. There was a Wall Street Journal article yesterday asserting the idea that cops kill blacks is a “big lie”. It made me insane with rage. I actually couldn’t do anything last night – I’ve been trying to get a book finished and I could write nary a word. I can relate to your malaise about the irrelevancy of pouring energy into creative endeavours when it would be a mere pinhole of light in a world growing more dark and hideous every day.

    So thanks to you and thanks to all the other white Americans for speaking up and being candid about what these events are saying about race in your country. Thank you for dispelling the idea that white Americans don’t give a shit about a bunch of dead black men. It is heartening because the view from up here in Canada: you are all fucking crazy. Even my white friends (which are the only friends I have, actually) believe this to be true. If that perception matters to Americans things need to change. This shit, plus Donald Trump being a contender for your highest office, despite the bigotry and xenophobia he spews equals America’s reputation being at an all-time low.

    I for one hope you are wrong; I hope that somehow a catalyst, a convincing moral authority will rise to convince mainstream America that the corrupting influence of Corporate greed that has co-opted the US political system has intensified a social problem that has been festering for generations and threatens to undermine the tenuous stability that exists. But I am sad too; I see nothing that looks like change in the offing.

    But your article, which may seem an irony, is a glimmer of hope, at least for me. If white people are despairing over this maybe that will be the moral spark that pulls America’s conscience to the surface after so many years of descent toward the ethical abyss. Because 70% of Americans are white, their bleeding hearts are absolutely necessary to make things change.

  7. 

    This is so raw and achingly beautiful, and though I grew up in Georgia, I relate to so much of what you describe. I’m raw and I hurt. I, too, had to say my piece before I could write anything else. Thank you for putting so much ugliness into beautiful words.

  8. 

    I too am rendered mute by recent events. We’re all the same color underneath. I don’t understand why people can’t see past it.

    Hugs. And thank you for writing this. (And if you move to Toronto as suggested above, I may know someone who lives near there.)

  9. 

    I adore you! What a beautiful, powerful piece. Thank you. xo

  10. 

    Never doubt (but, yes, these days, so easy) the power of your words, your voice. [Ah, yes, a sound to go with the printed (black on white background) words.] Awesome! Truth.

  11. 

    Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
    Read – Listen – If your don’t know, learn

  12. 

    Thank you for sharing your story, racism is an abomination and only if we dare to look at ourselves and recognise and deal with our own racist thoughts and action we can start helping to heal this world. 🙂

    • 

      It’s not easy to identify yourself as a racist, when you feel in your heart you can’t possibly be. But it’s the little things we do that show it. We can do better. We must do better.

  13. 

    Reblogged this on Mavadelo's mindscape and commented:
    Racism is found everywhere, only if we can and dare to look at ourselves and acknowledge where we ourselves went wrong we can help healing this world. Racism, beat it starting within your own heart

  14. 

    I can relate to this as a white-passing mixed girl. It’s hard to even read about what’s happening and even mentally engage with it sometimes because it happens too damn often. Thinking of that happening to family members and loved ones is too painful to think about, sometimes. It’s why I rarely engage with it at all because I just feel emotionally stretched thin.

    This piece is lovely and well-written, and I am glad that you wrote it. I am also sorry that you had to write it because of what’s been going on…but it is better being out here where we can read it…and hopefully others who need to see it can read it as well.

  15. 

    First: the spoken-word piece is GREAT.

    Second: you are GREAT.

    Third: this is GREAT.

  16. 

    I love this piece, I love your spoken word, I love your voice, I love you. I hope and pray more people in your country get woke to what is going on and try to turn things around. Is it too late?

    • 

      I don’t know. But thank you for all the love. I love you right back, and there’s a tiny part of me that truly believes that #Lovewins.

  17. 

    Excellent Samara. Thank You.

  18. 

    No words. I want to share this with everyone. X

  19. 

    Can you take a little pushback? Or do you just want a parade of sycophants here in comment world?

    “I wrote this because although I may not be racist, I enable racism EVERY DAY by participating in a racist society..” is the worst kind of horseshit there is. It’s punishment and guilt without having committed a crime. So what are you saying? If you’re living and breathing and trying to get through your tricky day, you’re automatically a racist? No matter what’s in your heart? Sorry. I reject that. I’m no racist and neither are you. I don’t enable racism. I do my part to eradicate it. You do not have permission to slap that label on me.

    Or, did I misconstrue your meaning?

    • 

      Of COURSE I want pushback! Dialogue is how we begin to address this. If the only people who read this already agree with me, how on earth will anything change?

      I absolutely believe that participating in a racist system in enabling racism. The same way that lying by omission is lying, inaction is being complicit.

      I don’t know what you do to eradicate racism, but speaking for myself, I not only do next to nothing, I’ve been hiding under my blanky for weeks, unwilling to participate in any of what’s being discussed online. My excuse was that I was already struggling just to survive and didn’t need anymore on my plate. No doubt, I was also emotionally triggered by all these events.

      I no longer feel it’s enough to not BE racist. I have to actually DO something. Our country is on fire and I need to get more actively involved in putting out that fire – whatever that looks like.

      • 

        But it’s an unrealistic and, if you’ll forgive me, ridiculous burden to place on yourself. And me. And my wife. Just being a part of society does not make one a racist. I teach my daughters not to hate. I don’t cast my vote for racist douchbags. I’m not racist. I’m just not! Neither are you! That’s such a powerful word. Under your premise, you are no better than the three white murderers who chained James Byrd to the back of their pickup truck (of COURSE it was a pickup truck) and dragged him to his death. Is that you? You are suffering a textbook case of liberal guilt.

      • 

        I don’t believe that everything is – to pardon the expression – so black and white. There are many levels of racism. I can be racist, and be a LOT better than men who drag people to their death.

        The racism of many a white liberal lies in the gray area.

      • 

        There’s a hysterical song in ‘Avenue Q’ that addresses that gray area called ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.’

        I’m not buying what you’re selling. You’re not racist. You should be proud and instead you’re condemning yourself. Since you’ll always be a part of society, does that mean you’ll always be racist? Oh, well. Might as well not even try.

      • 

        As long as I sit around and do nothing, and things continue as they are or get worse – as I fear they will – yes, I am enabling the racism.

        That’s why I want to TRY and make a difference. If no one even tries, who is going to make change happen?

        I am proud of myself, in many ways. But I can do more.
        We all can.

    • 

      Can you take a bit of push back Mark? I was watching an interview of Barrak and Michelle Obama many years ago when Obama was campaigning for his first term. The female network interviewer asked them what their response was to those who said Barrak was not black. Michelle answered quickly and tersely: ” When you watch him stand on a curb in the rain in New York City trying to flag down a taxi and each and every taxi drives right by and stops for the white man down the block, then you know he is black.”

      And so it is Mark. Every day, day in and day out those small inequities are thrust upon the non-whites. Tell me, if you were the white man in the rain down the block and you saw that happen would you tell the taxi driver to go back to the black man? If the answer is “No” , then you are enabling this racist society. If the answer is “Yes”, then you are a man we all look up to – thank you.

      • 

        I’m still not following. Getting in that cab would prove me a racist? How’z that? If I was driving a cab, I’d have picked him up.

        Real life dilemma:

        I lived in the Ft. Greene section of Brooklyn for a few years back in the early ’90s. I was one of the few white people in the naib and the ONLY white person in my building. I felt welcomed and respected. During that period, I was mugged three times. All three times it was by two or more young black men. The second time I was mugged, they didn’t even take anything. They just punched me in the face a few times, laughed, and when their way. Not everyone was thrilled I moved there. After the third mugging, I started to cross the street when I saw a group of young black men approach me on the sidewalk.

        My question is: did that make me a racist or was that an act of self-preservation?

      • 

        Getting in a cab that drove past someone else for being black makes you racist, yes.
        Those men mugging you makes them racist. I don’t agree with that, but I understand where their anger comes from. It’s the same anger that got me beaten up my whole childhood.

        And yes, crossing the street was an act of self preservation. Not racism. Moving out of there was also an act of self preservation. It just wasn’t a viable option for most of the people living there.
        That’s called “white privilege.”

      • 

        self preservation

      • 

        For the record, I didn’t leave Ft. Greene because I was mugged. I wasn’t looking to leave. Saying I left as an act of self preservation assumes to much.

        A friend who was a real estate agent called out of the blue and asked if I was interested in a huge, rent-stabilized apartment in the East Village. I couldn’t say no. But I was perfectly content living in Ft. Greene because I’m NOT A RACIST.

      • 

        I’m sure you are not a racist Mark – if I’d had even a hint of that in the few years I’ve been following you, I’d have been gone in a flash. I have done that to a number of bloggers – signed off and never came back. That said, it is still possible to enable racism – like the taxi description – without being racist. I used to spend time in NYC and I know the attitude – put 10 million people in one place and they compete for everything: the other guy’s loss was your gain – let him wait in the rain for taxi that saw him first. Believe it or not,that is not the way life is lived in most other places. If see a discriminatory behavior (like that of the taxi drivers) I point it out and insist it be righted – if possible. I will even open my cell and threaten to call the dispatch to lay a complaint of racism.

        What I understand Samara saying is that the time has come to do more than not be racist – the time has come for each of us to call out racism where ever we see it.

      • 

        Yes, Paul, that’s EXACTLY what I’m saying. It’s way past just being non-racist. Now we have to take action, action that extends beyond our own homes.

  20. 

    As a “white girl” too, in the present atmosphere, I feel trapped between my heartbreak and outrage and what I perceive as having no real ability to articulate words that won’t be seen by my black and interracial friends as shallow and lacking true understanding. I feel gagged, and this too makes me angry. I don’t know what to say. I know what I can do, but it feels like it will never be enough. But truth – it starts with one person, right? The problem seems insurmountable sometimes, and that scares the hell out of me. Your post is honest, and raw, and true. And it is a START. Let’s keep the dialogue going.
    ❤ you Samara

    • 

      Yep, this is where we start. All of us who feel we can’t articulate what we need to, who are angry and afraid and stifled – we need to find our voices.
      Thank you for supporting me in finding mine. xoxoxoxo

  21. 

    Change begins with the exchange of ideas and perspectives. While it’s true that it sometimes feels like words aren’t enough, it’s like being a parent and thinking nothing you are saying is sinking in. Then, one day, you hear your child reason through a situation with your words — and you know you made a difference. Keep talking; your voice is important, Samara.

  22. 

    I’ve never known another white person who was raised in a black housing project.

  23. 

    Girl. Your passion. Empowering. Invigorating. Enviable.

  24. 

    This is so powerful and so beautiful and I want to respond but also not respond. Why? Because as a white man I have too much privilege and too much power to silence others. Because I want to listen to what those who’ve been kept silent have to say.
    But I also know how silence can be misinterpreted. I know how people who think that because I look like them that they can share with me their racist, sexist views. They make the mistake of thinking that just because I look like them I must be one of them until I say otherwise.
    And I know silence can be misinterpreted in other ways, that people who are used to being silenced have good reasons for believing my silence means they shouldn’t speak either, even when I want it to mean “I’m listening.”
    And now I’ve said too much about my desire and need to speak and listen at the same time.

  25. 

    I adore you…thanks for this!

  26. 

    Did I understand you right? There was this rude bitch in a train thinking she is allowed to comment a private life from a complete stranger? And NOBODY in a train except your boyfriend told her to shut her evil, dirty mouth up? What a sad truth. Admittedly in Europe we don’t have black-white Polarisation. We have refugees – native folks polarisation right now. Still, I don’t want to live in look away society. If somebody is rude and just plain sick to a complete stranger I except that everybody tells this bitch to shut the fuck up.

  27. 

    I noticed you said, it was a black woman who made the negative remark. Many of my black co-workers hated white women “taking” their black men. an evidence of reverse prejudice.
    I think media and a perceived misconception that whites are “privileged” and out to get blacks is part of the problem. There’s a Philadelphia report that indicates that black and Hispanic officers are 3.3 times more likely to discharge their weapons than white officers. And that people tend to focus on black deaths but the reality is in 2014, of the 6095 deaths, almost all were by black killers. In 2015 officers killed 662 whites compared to 258 blacks and in most cases they were being attacked, often with a gun. But the media would have you believe it happens all the time.
    I went to a workshop in a dicey neighborhood in LA, at night and debated on getting out of my car where there were Hispanic men hanging out, especially since I’d already been verbally attacked, by a drunk black male at an intersection on Sunset,screaming vile obscenities at me and at one point wasn’t sure he wouldn’t break my window. I was in my car, but I was stopped at a red light and why I got singled out was perhaps because I was alone? No matter. Here I sit, still shaken up, facing Hispanics now. I tell myself, “I’m an actor, I can do this”. I finally get out of my car and glibly ask the “hanging out” guys if my car would be safe there. They all said, “sure, we’ll look out for it”. I was friendly and “acted” calm and everything went fine. I later learned that my black classmate never got out of her car. She was terrified of those same men. One time I had a blowout on a freeway at night and two men stopped, one white and one black. I felt safer and opted for having the black guy stay with me while the other went to get my tire fixed. They both repaired it and it went well. I am 70 now and
    18 then, things were different then.
    I’ve worked in black neighborhoods and the women carry guns and not to ward off whites. It’s just they are tuned in to their neighborhoods. Certain neighborhoods can be more dangerous. I’ve been in white neighborhoods where my heart was in my throat the whole time. (social work stuff)
    There are so many statistics and experiences we need to take individually and stop thinking in terms of black and white. My point being is prejudice is prejudice. Statistics don’t lie. They can be skewed but they are based on reality. We can’t say something doesn’t, did or didn’t happen a certain way. We need to stop thinking “white privilege” and heaping “white guilt” on whites, because as someone said earlier. Whites are aware and they want to see change for the positive and probably more than blacks do. If things are going to change, blacks must change as well.
    My children are adopting a black child they love immensely, but I worry down the road how he’s going to feel. I’m hoping for a better place for him. He’s only three.
    People need to quit looking for reasons to hate. Black, White or whatever. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results then maybe you need to stop it. It’s really not that complicated, yet people make it so.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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