Friday, November 30, 2007

Disheartening Stuff

I am beginning to learn that there is a lot of things white people will say when they are not around people of color. Growing up, I was usually one of the few white kids in my social group, and the when I was around people who looked like me, they were all very immersed in the city, focused on social justice/reconciliation, etc...

So being around people in college who have come from really homogeneous environments is a new thing for me. Unfortunately in many cases, it has not been a positive experience.

My roommate has been especially challenging. On move-in day her brother told her not to walk around outside because the city is dangerous and "A Somalian might jump out of a bush with a knife and attack you". She could tell his comment made me mad so she was like "please don't think my brother is a bad person!". I told her he's not necessarily a bad person, but he's got some messed up ideas. Then I told her about why Somalians are immigrating to the United States and how they are regular families trying to escape a war-torn country. She didn't pay any attention and just said "No, my brother watches the history channel so he knows what he's talking about." Another day she told me "I didn't have any sympathy for adults in poverty, if they wanted to change it they could". She also thinks Mexican immigrants are stealing all of "our" jobs (we actually debated about that in class and it led to me getting 10 extra points, so I guess it turned out ok). I could go on and on....this girl says a lot of ignorant things.

Just this morning I went to breakfast with my roommate and a friend of hers. They began talking with each other about "dating preferences" and my roommate commented that she doesn't like to date black guys. Then her friend was like "yeah, I would 'do' a black girl, but I would never date her or marry her". I told them that I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and we got into an argument about whether or not they were being racist. He tried to defend himself by saying "I'm not racist, I would marry a Mexican. But not a Japanese." At this point I was about to throw up, but I asked him why a black woman wasn't worth marrying, but he was fine with 'doing her'. He said "I don't want my kids to turn out mixed". I asked him why, and he stuttered over his words a little bit, then said because then his child wouldn't know if they should hang out with the black kids or the white kids. The conversation continued for awhile, basically with me telling him how deciding whether or not you would date someone because of the way they look, rather than who they are as a person is racist. He said it was just his "personal preference".

He told me that if I was going to get mad at him, I would have to be mad at lots of people because they all think that way. The depressing part is he's right. Lots of people do think that way and it sickens me. People are going to view my sisters as "doable", but not good enough for marriage. Others are going to look at Isaac, Tekle, and Aaron, and not even consider dating them because they convinienty "aren't attracted to black guys". Thankfully, the world is a big place, and the ignorant people only make up a portion of it. Granted, the portion is bigger than I thought...I guess I've been pretty isolated in my community. I'm grateful for that though, and I'm glad my siblings will be able to enjoy a diverse and loving community before have to deal with people like this on a regular basis. When I look at Lacy and see her gorgeous brown skin, curly black hair, and radiating smile, I realize that guys like that don't deserve daughters like her.

I hate that we have to deal with these issues. I'm not a very confrontational person, but it's impossible for me not say anything when it's so personal. He's referring to my sisters, my brothers, and my best friends. I know we have to work to educate people but at times it seems like an uphill battle.


Chuck and Jenny said...

You're right, Kelsey. It is hard and disheartening. You do what you can, one person at a time. And sometimes the subtle racism is worse than the blatent. I'm sorry you're confronted with this. Unfortunately there will always be people who think that about our friends, siblings, and children. It's challenging for me to think about how to teach Joshua Biruk (8 mo) how to deal with this as a teen/adult.

I've followed your blog for a while and I think you are one smart college chick! And that Tekle....I could just eat him up with a spoon, he's so stinking cute!

Mark and Sarah said...

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Racism is so ugly! I am so inspired by your innate sense of justice and integrity--willing to stand up to whomever you need to. Hang in there. I admire you and your younger siblings are so cute!

Anonymous said...

Dear One,

We did what we could to prepare you--now you "get" to continue the fight. Press on and remember God is good--some people are ignorant--and many others will lead you, join you, support you, and pray for you as you keep on standing up for what's right.


Anonymous said...


I understand your frustration. I was convinced that racism did not exist until I dated someone who is not the same race as I am. I heard all kinds of rude comments both from people who are the same race as me and from people who are the same race as the other person. I thought that the days of thinking of someone only as a "race" were over. I guess I was very nieve.

I also have traveled extensively throught the world. Once while we were in a rual area in a developing country and the poverty was evident. One man made a comment saying "when are these people going to get with the 21st century" That made me sooooo mad because "these people" had they been given a choice would not choose to live like this. I tried to explain this to the man but he would not listen to any of it.

I don't know what the answer is but I think maybe people do listen to what you have to say. They may not admit it at first but I hope that they do think about what you tell them and perhaps you can help change their attitude one bit at a time. You can't change the whole world at once but I hope that little by little, you can help change one person (maybe just a little) at a time.

Scarlett_333 said...

Good for you for saying something!!! I grew up in one of those neighbourhoods that is predominately white, and I hated it, especially as I got older. It makes me sad that I have only had a few friends of a different race in my ENTIRE life! This isn't by choice, but to give you an idea of my city, in our high school of 1000 people, I think there were about 10 black people. It just makes me sad that people have those views. But not everyone who grow up in predominately white areas is racist like that-- at least I'm not!!

PrincessMax said...

Anything encouragement that I have to give you is somewhat unnecessary since this post really shows that you understand the complexities of these interactions. I am impressed at your willingness to love these people that you are in community with by engaging them.

I have come to believe that when Christ says, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," it is valid to substitute "privileged" for "rich" because folks like your roommate are not living as fully in the kingdom of God "on earth as it is in Heaven" as they could be. How sad for them. Your willingness to engage with them is a giant ministry in and of itself to them and to the world that your siblings have to live in.

It's so hard and you're doing such a good job. I will continue praying for you.

Jessica K said...

kelsey i totally agree with you 100%. The things that people say, are quite ignorant but you and i both know it's just because they haven't been able to experience any of what you have experienced. They come from totally different backgrounds, and don't understand the compassion you have for people of all different races. I truly am proud of you for standing up for what you believe in is right, it will be this passion that will get you so far in life. I admire your wise words. I believe i would do the same thing in your position, because I as well think that one should not be judged by the color of their skin.
In the beginning of the school year, my roomate was talking to her friend on the phone in the hallway about my other roomate and I. She was talking quite loud, and I heard her call us "some ghetto kids from edison, and I got thrown into their situation" I just laughed because I knew that once she got to know us, she would like us for who we really are, despite we may be some ghetto kids..but from south!
If your roommate just opened up her eyes to see all the positive things that diversity brings to this world, I think you both would have much greater understanding.

goood luck my dear.

Jessica Kendall

KelseyChristine said...

Wow thanks for all the support an encouraging comments everybody! It seems like SO many people have horrible stereotypes and prejudice outlooks on the world, so it is a relief to hear from people like you, and be reminded that there are also lots of good people around! Thank you!

Just Meee~ said...¤t=CycleofLife.gif

Jennifer said...

Just as I feel repulsed that people exist who are comfortable expressing their racism, much less thinking it, I feel equally grateful that women like you exist. Congratulations not only to you for standing up for your truth, but congratulations to your parents for raising such an intelligent and compassionate woman.

KelseyChristine said...

Again, I can't tell you all how encouraging these comments have been. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Anna said...

Kuddos to you and to your parents that so obviously raised an amazing person. Continue to stand up for what you believe. In the long run it does make a difference, to someone- and thats all that matters. You will find your everlasting freinds will be the ones that are right along side you in the struggle for truth and honesty.

Danielle said...

I stumbled onto your blog, and I am happy I did. I am a young Black woman from the NYC. I just want to say you are amazing and not to worry, there are many people who are not ignorant and racist, although sometimes they may seem far and few. People like yourself who hold a mirror up to others with small minds and racist hearts will change the world, one person at a time. No doubt, what you said will stay with your friends forever.