Breathe Easy, You've Found Me ((HUGS))

People will wonder why this blog is needed, why minority midwifery student? It's very simple actually; I was looking for this blog...but I couldn't find I created it. We all have unique experiences, and every experience, every story, can help someone else. I am a black girl from the hood at an ivy league professional school. That, alone, is reason enough to write. Somebody was looking for this blog. Someone wanted proof that what I'm doing can be done - even when you come from where we come from.

To that person especially, WELCOME.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Don't Touch My Hair

First, some background: The midwifery students had our orientation last Wednesday. There are 16 of us in my class, 3 of which are black and 1 who is latina. (Yes, it was a record year for the school) Me and my friend sit together in every class. The other black girl sits far, far away in the front of the room, but because she was one of the last ones to come in the room this day (and because it was a very small room) she sat in one of the few open happened to be in between me and "the" latina (yeah, I know, I hate this too). As soon as she sat down I realized it. I thought "oh my, we're sitting in a row, we're going to look like we're segregating ourselves" despite the fact that we were all in a very small room, with desks arranged in a circle.

Back to now, my friend went out 2 nights ago and was cornered by a drunk white girl from our class. Here's some of what she said during the very long conversation:

"Why do the black girls sit together in the class?"
"I want to step out of my socioeconomic status and learn about those different than my own."
"You and X should talk more in class because there's so much I want to know."
"I just feel like there's a divide. I don't want there to be."
"I've been the minority before - I went to Kenya."

and on and on and on, followed by:

"I feel so much better now."

Now, first of all, my friend happens to come from a background similar to most others in this program...and so does the other black girl in the class! And for the record, I'm talking boarding school followed by Ivy undergrad for one of 'em. So of course there's this moment where she says she realized that this girl assumed that because she was black she was also poor, and that pissed her off.

Other than that, how does one propose we don't sit together in room of 25ish chairs and 17 or so people? Purposely sit every other chair? LOL Then there's the fact that these *&%$ have private midwifery dinners that none of the 4 of us have ever been invited to...and they even have inside jokes and conversations IN CLASS about stuff that is obviously said at these little dinners they host among themselves. What does segregation mean again? Damn right there's a divide, and YA'LL created it the first time you invited only some of our class to your home.

All of this crap at the bar was made worse by the fact that the whole time she was talking she had her damn hands in my friends braids. More background: the night before this night, our school met up for happy hour. I had to physically remove this girl's hand from my head! On the walk over I had just gave my class credit (only me and two friends walked over together) for not touching my hair the whole day, and lo' and behold this chick comes up and grabs my hair. I have dreads, and I know that many people are curious because they have never felt them before. But in case those reading don't know, do not ever walk up to a black girl and commence to putting your hands in her hair...dont pull the spring to see what happens...don't pat the afro, or otherwise touch it. For real, I'm trying to help you. We don't like to be patted on the head or otherwise touched like what you see is rare; I aint no monkey and this aint no pettin zoo. Further, unlike most european hairstyles, if you mess with our hair, it isn't necessarily going to just fall back into place. A fro takes a long time to get even in the morning...some people spend a good hour trying to get that hair to lay down "right" for that flat iron. My husband would like to add "do NOT rub your fingers on the cornrows either!" Ok back to the story:

This girl who did this was at the bar the night before when this happened to me, and she was there for the subsequent teaching moment about not doing this, yet there she was feeling all over my friend's hair.

There's so much I can say about this, but I'm getting off my soap box. This is basically what I would like these girls to know:

Just because we're all black or brown, it doesn't mean we have the same backgrounds.

Before you ask why we're sitting together, ask yourselves why you're sitting together.

Just because my socioeconomic background is different than yours, it doesn't mean that I'm going to be speaking for all the poor black people of the world.

You spendin a summer in Africa is not the equivalent of me livin in this brown skin forever.

It's gonna be a long school year if you think that you're just going to come up and dump all your shyt at my feet. I am not here to help you with white guilt, make you feel comfortable around black people, answer all your questions about brown people, or be anybody you think I should be.

We can learn a lot from each other, but this isn't how to start it off right. Please keep your hands to yourself, get to know me before you ask me personal questions, and tell yourself the truth about what's really happening in the classroom.


Ashley said...

Wow, so its at your school too? I had a girl yell across the courtyard "What kind of minority are you?" I couldn't even dignify her ignorance with half a response. Then we had a discussion in Population based health care about disparities amongst blacks and whites, and a girl stated "The Tuskeegee experiments happened such a long time ago, blacks should let it go. A president apologized for it." Wow. I turned about eight shades of red at one of the many ignorant comments made at this class session. I guess I expected more from my institution of higher learning that happens to be in the South.

ChiaLing81 said...

I can't believe how appallingly stupid and ignorant some people are. By all means, let's just up the ante with some EtOH. *sigh*

ChiaLing81 said...

Ha - you know what? I just remembered my very first clinical rotation preconference.

A group of about 10-12 whites and Asians/Asian-Americans, and two small seating areas delineated by couches in the hospital lobby.

We managed to self-segregate. Asians on one side, whites on the other.


Loving Pecola said...

I don't feel so alone after you guys' comments...It makes me remember "it's *not* just me; I'm not losing my mind!"


Anonymous said...

Although Im white, and I understand that's its different for you being a race issue...I can totally relate to random people being inappropriately familiar with personal questions and touching my hair... I just dont get people that think their curiosity allows them to invade other people's space

Sage Femme said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sage Femme said...

"hey! i'm not racist - i have a friend who is oriental!!"

you know, i am white and i will not say that i'm not racist. because doesn't racism mean prejudice and power together? i'm part of a larger white power structure that i cannot separate myself from. sure, i'm all progressive and shit, but my liberal thinking doesn't kick me out of the white power club.

have the progressives like me made it worse? are we trying so hard to being "less white" and "more accepting" (whatever 'accepting means') that we talk about 'not seeing color'. we see ourselves as being so 'open' - are we 'open' consciously like this to other white people?


all i'm sayin is that i'm a white girl in a state that is mostly white and my race is in the majority most of where i go and what i do.

i cannot even begin to tell you that i get where you're coming from. because i don't. i cannot possibly understand. anyone that is white in our country CANNOT for sure. (as a queer woman, i can sure talk my own shit, but my sexuality is not something that is inherently available on first glance)

we (white folk) have gotten so used to wanting to be 'open' and 'accepting' that we use those damn words every day in terms of color. we cannot even talk about how the feelings of insecurity we have with people of color comes from the shame we still carry - the shame of not really knowing what is 'right' and 'wrong' when dealing with race.

i deal with my prejudices. we all do. however, it's the presence of the power i receive as a white person in this culture that makes me inherently racist.

does that make sense? i just get so tired of progressives (well, and I get sick of conservatives, too) beating around this bush claiming to "have friends that are black/latino/asian"...thinking that this makes them immune to the white privilege they (and i) have.

it's a long road we still have to go. if you ever feel like teaching me more, i'm so open to it.