Recently on a post I had been commenting on, someone told me, “You the safe brown girl for your racist friends lol”
This came in response to me saying that I had been fetishized for twerking in MX because they love to appropriate black culture derived from the US. That the Mexicans in Monterrey had clutched to me and labeled me as the closest they could get to true African American culture, regardless of my olive skin tone and Latinx roots. That they refused to provide respect to even their own people who wielded a darker skin tone, and I was already alien enough.
At first I felt a surge of resentment, and replied that they weren’t my friends, and that I had only been thrown into their midst against my will when living there. (“They” were also other international students who couldn’t have cared less about who I really was, and preferred to paint me as the ratchet American for my slang and demeanor. Y’know, respectability politics and all.) But I reflected and realized why this half-assed passive aggressive comment bothered me at all- because it had truth to it.
I have been that safe brown girl for my racist friends. I have allowed people to tear down demographics not pertaining to myself while they were around me. I have tucked my tail and feigned ignorance when faced with adversity. I have weighed the options of being the other vs. being the accepted and played into my camouflaging strengths. I have failed in protecting those who did not have a voice.
I had only been assertive with those I knew were foes to my own personal communities. Those who adamantly owned their racism and homophobia and ableism and sexism proudly like a fucked-up flag of pride. I physically and verbally fought these people. I loudly asserted my stance against them, because it was the obvious “right” thing to do.
But when it came down to the complexities within my own identity as a Mexican-American, I let “real” Mexicans run over me and convince me that it was better to submit to their coloring of my identity, because I was already “not authentic” through their lens.
I failed. I did. For my own sake. From my own shame in only being semi-legitimate. From my fear of being looked down upon by a group of people I had hoped would accept me.
I let myself down secondly and let my friend’s communities down firstly. And although my initial anger at the stranger’s comment was from a place of embarrassment, it was also out of resentment for being considered the same person that I once was when this happened.
So what do I do with this revelation?
Fucking take accountability. Fucking recognize my own shortcomings.
And fucking forgive myself for being ignorant and selfish in my past ways of facing adversity.
Honestly, there’s not much else we can do until we realize the humanity in our fuck-ups and evolve ourself into someone we can actually be proud of.
Sometimes that means developing into a person who takes no shit regardless of how close the friend or relative is that openly offends other folx right in front of you. Sometimes that means not allowing yourself to be put into boxes that make other’s more comfortable in making you an “other” in their eyes. Sometimes that means explaining not only yourself but your comrades’ experiences over and over and over again to validate your/their existence. Sometimes it means telling someone to go fuck themselves because you don’t have to explain how incredibly violent they are for them to know better.
Regardless of how it looks, growth and accountability have to start with the realization that none of us are 100% aware of how our actions have encouraged or allowed others to capitalize on our complacency.
Evaluate yourself, your friends- and even those who you are forced to interact with on a daily basis, regardless of whether you take personal responsibility for their motives and actions. Move forward. Use your privileges for good. And I’ll see you on the other side of personal awareness when I make it there, too.