August 13, 2013

Got Racism? Not With Me, You Don't.

Sometimes, a hateful occurrence can be turned around into something healing.

I was checking my messages on The App last night, and this 20 year-old white guy had sent me a message. 

I won't share the exact message, but his opening line was, shall we say... Direct.

I swear that on these apps, a good proportion of men have lost their sense of courtesy and civility... If it was even there to begin with with some of these guys. 

Anyway, like an old man, I chided him on his rudeness and said that he should consider, oh, I don't know, saying "Hello" to a guy rather than talking to him as if he's a walking penis. 

Well, he was NOT happy. He let loose with a vitriolic rant and then ended with one word. A word I hadn't heard in years. 

"Nigger."


Oh wow. WOW. So... I say "No" to you and then you call me a "Nigger"?! I've heard of non-white women enduring this kind of treatment from white men who fetishize their ethnicity... But I'd never experienced it myself. It was as if he felt that I should be OH so grateful to him that he had sent me a message. 

A huge torrent of memories came flooding back from my childhood. I was called "nigger" practically every day from kindergarten through to grade 5. There was no escaping it, either. Nobody did anything to help or stop it. I just had to take it (or at least that's what I thought because that's what the adults around me essentially told me.)

So I did. I took it for all those years without ever fighting back. Every day. Those experiences really internalized for me the belief that my role in life was to be a victim, a punching bag for others, and that I did not deserve respect. I still remember being 18 years old, in my first year of university, walking around fully expecting everyone to start making fun of me. After all, that was my lot in life, right?

I never fought back. Ever. 

But now... I'm fucking 33 years old. I've sat on my therapist's couch for a few years and undone a lot of the negative things from those experiences. And the most powerful thing I learned?

I am NOT a victim and not a punching bag. And I always have a choice to either fight back or walk away, but I don't have to just sit there and take shit from people. 

So I let him have it. I tore a strip off this entitled prick. I said some incredibly mean, hateful things to him - things that I've never said to anyone before. It's not in my nature to react like this.

But let me tell you - I'm glad this dude decided to call me "nigger". 

Why? Because it allowed me to finally stand up for myself in the exact situation I was trapped in for so many years, and finally... Dish it right back to a racist just as good as they gave it. 

I felt, for the first time, that I didn't internalize what the other person had said to me like I did for so many years. I for once, disregarded what was told to me, and then fought back and rightfully defended myself. 

I never thought that saying something so awful to someone would have the power to heal an old wound - but it sure did for me today.