Today I want to examine an article by Priscilla Ward, entitled "I’m tired of suppressing myself to get along with white people." You might think this to have been written for the satirical web-site, the Onion, but you would be wrong.
Anyway, Ward writes:
I met my new roommates on Craigslist. Two white, one Chinese. Together we represented Portland, Florida, China and (with me) D.C., and as we moved into our apartment in Bed-Stuy ["a cultural center for Brooklyn's African American population"] last fall, I was excited for the potential of cross-cultural exchange.
We had a get-to-know you powwow on the rooftop. We talked about ourselves, what brought us to New York. It was a warm evening in September, a couple of weeks after Michael Brown was shot, and somewhere in the mix I brought up Ferguson, hoping to spark a “conscious conversation.” Then it happened. The nightmarish response.
“What’s happening in Ferguson?” one of my white roommates asked. “I heard some kid got shot or something like that.”
The words clamored in my ears. How could he not know? Weren’t his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds flooded with opinions and hashtags? I’m sure he meant nothing by his statement. We’re all ill-informed from time to time. But as I stood there, awkwardly not saying a word — while hundreds of words ran through my head — it was a reminder of how much I would have to suppress in order to get along with my white male roommates in our tiny four-bedroom apartment. This place I would call my home for a year.
... The brief conversation on the roof that hot September night lasted much longer in my head. I sent myself into a 200-year-old tizzy, reckoning with outdated ideas on race, tampering with prejudice and stereotypes. I became enslaved by my emotions.The author goes on about her rage (her choice of words, not mine) that her white roommates (she never mentions the Chinese roommate again) just were not as upset about the Ferguson matter as was she.
I think the general term for someone like the author is "prima donna".
She discusses the shooting of Michael Brown as though she had some shared upbringing or experiences with him. I doubt she had anything, other than melanin, in common. From her own description:
... I’m a girl with a fro, raised in the place once known as “Chocolate City.” I grew up part of a black nuclear family, was home-schooled, then became part of of the mini-Historic Black College Experience at Temple University. After arriving in New York, I became an intern at Essence, a magazine so safe I likened my boss to an aunt. Those settings were as comfortable as my grandma’s cooking on any given Sunday.Brown, on the other hand, grew up in a broken family, poor neighborhood, enjoyed vulgar rap music, used drugs, and was a bully. Although his family has claimed he did not have a criminal history, he robbed a tobacco shop only minutes before his death. News reports indicated that he had been accepted to college--a community or trade college, though, not Temple University.
Of course, it's not about Brown. It is all about Ward:
I longed to crawl back to my tiny black universe. A place where I could create a sense of peace, identity and acceptance, a place where I could sit there, trying to untangle my fro and make sense of what it means to be an African-American woman in this country, rehashing our history while facing present pain. ...
* * *
But I want to stop tiptoeing around race. My blackness is not a secret I have to keep. I want to be able to publicly express my honest admiration for being black, outside of my little black planet. I don’t want to feel marginalized, like I can’t speak hard truths about myself. Having honest and challenging conversations with people of another race will hopefully disrupt other people’s ignorance. But it will also help me. I need to stop with my mental temper tantrums. I want to get free.You would think that given the above, she would want to talk to her roommate, but, instead, she describes sidestepping the subject of her thoughts whenever the opportunity to discuss them came up. Apparently it was not enough that her roommate ask her about Brown or how a protest she attended went. No, he was somehow supposed to intuit from her reluctance to talk about the subject that she, in fact, wanted to discuss everything in detail, and, I suppose, for him to drop to his knees and beg her forgiveness for his being an inferior white man.
What really strikes me, though, is Ward's racism. Her article is all about how she is uncomfortable around Caucasians. She grew up in a black neighborhood, she went to the "mini-Historic Black College Experience at Temple University," she moves to a historically black neighborhood in Brooklyn. She complains of what she terms "the unintentional ignorance of white people." As for work, she writes: "I found my little black planet at work. I went over to my black boss and talked real low and real brief about how disturbing this all was. I grabbed one of my home girls I work with."
We get it, Priscilla. You're a bigot.
Update (1/22/2015): Glenn Reynold's comment on Ward's article: "YEAH, WELL, I’M TIRED OF SUPPRESSING MYSELF TO GET ALONG WITH STUPID PEOPLE."