Monday, February 15, 2010

So last Friday I had an experience that i have never had before and may not ever have again. it really rocked my conscience and that's why I feel it is necessary to share.

So I have really gotten into sociology lately. I am a TA for a Race Relations class which means I get to facilitate race discussions twice a week. I also get to participate in a race discussion myself once a week with other TA's. I really really enjoy the time spent being honest and sincerely learning about the world and its inhabitants. Last week I was given the opportunity to join another discussion group and I jumped at the chance. This discussion was called Dialogues Between the Middle East and the West. I honestly just want to be included in as many discussions as possible, I just really love learning and interacting with all kinds of people.

The first dialogue was this past Friday. We all came in and introduced ourselves and then started the dialogue. It was going very well. Everyone was very interested in what was being said, questions were being posed, it was great. Then somewhere along the way I noticed something was different. This discussion was different. The mechanics of the discussion just were not the same and I could not figure out what it was, until it hit me.

Holy Crap!

I was the majority! In the scope of that discussion I was an "American" and thus I represented the majority. It was really strange because I was an American for the first time I can remember. I'm always a black person, in America. I wrote this blog in two parts and writing it now two weeks removed it is not coming across as serious as I wanted it to, but whatever it was crazy. To fully understand it you have to know whats it's like to never be the majority, and then suddenly have it thrust onto you unknowingly. Weird. I was actually in the group that was trying to learn from the other side, the side that didn't know anything. The "home" team. Craziness, or at least it was to me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Place to Call Home

It sure has been awhile. Back in school so naturally my time is at a premium and typically the first things to be phased out are the things I like most. Well here I am at 2AM. I don't know why I am still awake, I have an exam tomorrow. Oh well none of that matters right now. What does matter is what's on my mind right now.

I am very well aware that I struggle with my emotions. I know I repress, I know I shrug things off. However I think I'm in deeper than I thought. So I'm a TA for a Sociology class. Basically I facilitate discussion circles on race and stuff. It's freaking awesome. Best gig in the world, because if you know me you know I love learning and hearing new opinions and thoughts and experiences. Anyway so part of being a TA is there is a class that all the TAs take which basically teaches us skills to facilitate and also allows us to have our own discussions. So this past Tuesday we were talking about how there are "clubs" especially amongst minorities, that are exclusive to minorities. A white guy sincerely wanted to know why he couldn't be in the black club. Not saying he wanted to be black but rather he wanted to reach out to the black community and be a friend and not be seen as someone trying to fill his "black friend" quota or whatever.

Anyway the idea bounced around the circle, and at one point we got on the subject of Black people versus African-American people versus African people. I personally identify as Black. I'm not African, as far as I know I'm from Philly, my parents are from Philly and that's how I see myself. I guess some part of me hundreds ago is African but as far as my everyday life is concerned, I'm Black and that's it. So someone says how can you just cut off all of your history and just move forward as if you are a separate people entirely?

Honestly to me it's not so much about disowning or cutting off as it is about me not claiming something I know nothing about. I can't go around claiming Ghana, or Nigeria, etc. with no idea where I'm actually from, so for me at least it's about the here and now.

So ok that's where I stand and that's all. Then we had a check out which is basically just time to say whatever is on your mind with no responses from anyone else. So my friend gets up and says one of the reasons we as Black people make our clubs is because we have no real place to belong. it's no secret that we are not at home in America. We aren't really wanted or accepted here for whatever reason. Simultaneously we aren't wanted in Africa either because we are Americanized and not "real Africans". So where do we go? We have nothing of our own to claim. when he said it you could see the hurt in his eyes. He gave a wonderful example of a kidnapping. Imagine being kidnapped as a child. You grow up in a place that is not your home and then when you are older you want to go back home, except that you parents don't want you. So then where do you go? You have nothing you can call "home", nothing that is distinctly yours.

Now I was there when he said it, listening attentively and I nodded and understood his pain, but it really didn't get to me personally. It just didn't.

Now though, I'm really feeling it.

A lot.

I just realized I really do care. Everyone knows that America is a melting pot/mixing bowl, whatever you want to call it. No body is from here with the exception of the Natives. So everyone has something to put in front of the hyphen, whether it be Russian, Greek, French, Chinese, Indian, Jamaican, Spanish, what ever it may be. The thing is I don't have anything I can earnestly put in front of the hyphen. Wow, I really don't have a heritage. Beyond the one here in America. Or at least a heritage that wants me. That's heavy. I feel that now. I can't honestly believe I had never felt that feeling before. I have to believe that I just blocked this out. Even listening now to my own thoughts I really feel like I'm terrified of this feeling which explains why I blocked it out before.

So I mean all this crap in the world. Racism, inequality, what have you. Taking all these classes and participating in discussion groups to improve and understand race relations, all the while with no understanding from my own people. At the end of the day I can't even go "back home" because home doesn't want me anymore.