Most of the people I know are like me.
I had a delightful chat with a neighbor whilst walking last weekend. I know she meant well, and I didn’t respond at the time. I bristled later, and I bristle still. This is when we (meaning all of us) fail to appreciate the extent of our privilege. We were talking current events, which meandered into politics. I am ever careful about expressing my full opinions except to people whom I know well, but my feelings are always carefully, clearly articulated.
That’s when it happened…
Some version of “you speak so well.”
“What do you do?”
“The way you articulate your position…., you know, you’re so articulate for a….”
I speak like the people I know. Those I spend time with, those whom I love. Those who raised me, those who raised them, etcetera. English, well-spoken and well writ, is our first language. We go to college (we graduate). We achieve advanced degrees. It ain’t impressive (why yes, I do speak ebonics. I code-switch fluently). We encourage each other. We write books and plays, produce films, create music and pieces of visual art, television, write contracts, negotiate deals, build lives, pay our bills, raise our (intact) families, get and stay married. We’re normal.
We’re also proudly, hella black. Of African descent…
and when you insist on labeling us “exceptional,” you other us. We can’t be like the rest of the black, brown, and tan people you know, because we’re “exceptional.” So, to make yourselves comfortable, you say things like, “I don’t think of you as black, you’re just my friend.” Because it couldn’t be that I was just like you AND be me, or perhaps more (capable, educated, facile, fortunate, etc.,) than you and still be me; Nah, that wouldn’t do at all.
so you make yourself feel better, by making me (and mine) small
Draw me into your world so you can draw me away from all the people you find scary, intimidating, or offensive. You know, the others.
People of faith, here’s the thing. Did we forget that we are all Imago Dei? Even them folk you can’t stand?? I’m honestly working on that “love everybody” piece, but could we stop creating distance instead of trying to bridge it?
If I’m your neighbor, wouldn’t you expect me to have affinity with you? Why are you surprised that I can do what I do? I have been afforded exceptional opportunities, but I AM NOT EXCEPTIONAL. I’m just me, and there are loads of us. Way more than you know. We’re just average for our crowd.
Maybe you’re the exception?? Check your privilege.