Could this be race-related?
February 15, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I am a biracial female in my mid-thirties. Growing up in the 1980's as a mixed kid was no fun, but I survived. My mother was white, and my dad was not a strong black role-model; his family was not a part of my life, and likewise, I did not have any influence from Black culture as I grew up. My parents also sent me to a suburban school, which was predominantly white, so it was very hard to fit in there...I went through school with few friends, and college did not offer much chance to establish any more. By most interpretations, I would likely have fit in better in a "white: crowd (culturally, socially) but phsically I am still a black person. Still, due to my lack of racial identity, it was very hard to fit in anywhere. Fast forward to my question:) Present day well into the new century, I have a successful career and a small real-estate investment business. However, I find that I still have a lot of trouble in work, with my business and with making friends.

At work, I still experience what I perceive as racism, mainly, persons making judgments about what I can and cannot do due to my race. I have tried to get involved in community volunteer groups (one being the Junior League) and have met nothing but what I perceive as racism there too. My neighbors don't speak to me, I still do not have close friends, and as a landlord, I feel that once people see me (after the initial talk on the phone) that they are less interested in the property. In fact, the last time I needed a tenant, I hired someone else (i.e. a White male) to handle to process, and I got a tenant right away. Trust, I don't like to pull the "race card" but with so many situations in my life pointing at nothing else but that, what else am I to think?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Certainly, racism could be a factor. I noticed you don't specify where you live. Growing up on suburban Long Island, I've lived in both prosperous racially diverse communities, and villages shot through with blatant racism, within driving distance of one another.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:19 PM on February 15, 2010

Could this be race-related?

Definitely. Could also be your misconception; it would be hard for any of us to tell. I'm not sure about what you're really asking for here.
posted by amro at 12:30 PM on February 15, 2010

Oh hey, you sound similar to me, except I'm male and both my parents were black, though I'm very light skinned.

Thinking about this too much can drive you a bit mad, always wondering "What if, are they" etc, etc. I know, been there, done that. At some point, you just have to say the hell with it and decide it's their problem not yours and you develop techniques and tools to work around these situations. For instance, hiring the white guy to get a tenant, while understandably distaste, is just a method for getting what you want: money, making your business successful etc.

That said, I'm finding it difficult to believe that all of your issues are due to racism. Where do you live? How to conduct yourself, i.e. body language etc? In my own experiences, I've found that any sort of standoffish behavior due to people being prejudiced, or what I perceive as prejudice, goes away once they get to know me. I don't mean to disparage your attitude or brains, but I am wondering whether there is more going on here with your basic attitude and outlook.

If you could follow up with some specific examples of situations you think are racist, that would help others to figure out if you're close in your perceptions or off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

There could be racism in play in any singular instance that you have described here, but I doubt that it is a factor in all of them. Your perception seems a bit clouded by an insecurity with being bi-racial. You may be thinking some of it into existance. Like STV said, it could also have something to di with where you live(d). But since you have gotten an education and have a successful career, I think you might just have trouble making friends (i know i do) and see race as a reason why. Some people may not know how to treat you or how to be your friend because of your race but this isn't racism, perse, but more the effect of slight ignorance and the fact that they maybe did not grow up around black people or biracial people, or anything other than a racially homogenous group. They probably don't think less of you because of your race, but may not know how to form relationships with people of other races because they just never have. I think the only way around a scenario like that is to know that forming friendships with be a very slow process because there will be excess time in the beginning phases wherein you and the other person learn that you have common experiences / feelings / etc that transcend race (if the new friend has never really interacted with someone of a different race).
posted by WeekendJen at 12:48 PM on February 15, 2010

It sounds like, whether real or perceived, it's real to you, and I'm sure there's some kind of feedback effect. You feel discriminated against, but what you're experiencing could be any number of things (maybe your race, maybe you're not that good at your job or at least don't have the confidence necessary to be perceived as being good at your job, maybe you're just being overly sensitive and they like you fine but you're paranoid about it...who knows?). My best friends include a dark-skinned Indian guy and a little korean girl, and I'm a short, bald hispanic. Of all of us, my wife, who is straight-up white, is the one that tends to be the most paranoid about what people think about her, so I'm a little skeptical in general with the whole, "people are treating me different because I look different" vibe. As far as I can tell, people generally (there are some douchebags for sure) treat you the way that you feel that you deserve to be treated. Maybe think about other reasons for things happening the way that they are?
posted by kryptonik at 12:52 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

This could be, as StrikeTheViol said, completely due to a combination of where you live, and racism. Are you in the US? Have you seen the same behaviour in different cities, geographic areas?
posted by kellyblah at 12:53 PM on February 15, 2010

I certainly think that some of your issues could be due to racism, like the tenant problem.

But you might also be seeing zebras instead of horses because now you are looking for this as the problem everywhere when it isn't.

For instance, the Junior League might just have fallen through because you had no one to sponsor you or put in a good word since you don't many people in the area. I'm a caucasian woman and didn't get into some Southern Women's Democratic blah blah blah because I only knew one woman who was a member and honestly didn't get along with her. I just figured I'd probably be happier not being a member of that group anyway.

If you do see this as racism, combat it by trying to join some organizations where race is not an issue or is, in fact, even in your favor, and then use the contacts you make to network into the other, harder-to-enter cliques.

As far as work goes, I think you may be dealing with racism there--but again it could be that you are just new to your job. How long have you worked there? Either way, you will probably realistically have to work harder and toot your own horn more than is warranted to get noticed for your abilities. It sucks, but it's doable.

Going forward, I would try to get myself out of that "other" mindset where you feel like everyone else is from another planet, judging you. Not for their benefit, but for yours. Keeping an open mind will help you to be assertive and stand up for yourself when you know you are the right person for the job.
posted by misha at 12:57 PM on February 15, 2010

In no way am I negating your perceptions of your own experience, but I can speak to one issue: Junior League is more of a cauldron than a polite tea pot. Depending on location, those women can be vicious and insular and it may have more to do with not fitting the mold of the "affluent, married moms" demographic than with race.

(On which, by the way, they provide no data, which is pretty telling.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:00 PM on February 15, 2010

Yes, it could very well be racism. Other than moving to a less homogeneous town, I don't have many ideas on how to deal with it. However, I do have a thought about the other part of your question. It seems like you're connecting your difficulty recognizing and handling the racism with the way you were raised to be "culturally, socially" white, and I think that you are probably right.

I don't know quite what to offer you, since I'm a little confused and ambivalent on this topic myself. I grew up in a mixed-race family -- white American mom, non-white immigrant dad -- in an completely white neighborhood in a completely white middle-class town and in complete isolation from the non-white half of my family. My parents made that choice because it offered greater economic and educational opportunity. Though I appreciate my parents' good intentions, I still feel a bit jealous of the way my dad's family seems rooted to each other and to their common identity. They all live near each other, and they really seem to support each other through a lot of experiences, including the experience of living in a racist society. When race comes up in my life (it doesn't often, since I look mostly white, but it does occasionally), my reaction tends to be, "Huh? What? Did that really just happen?" and I have no idea what to do and nobody that I can talk to about it. It feels lonely.

Though I don't always agree with everything the contributors say, I have often found Racialicious pretty illuminating on what it's like to be mixed-race. For instance:
The answer is simple: when you live in a country where white culture is dominant, you don’t gotta struggle to learn about whiteness. You may, on the other hand, have to struggle to learn about your culture of colour. And you may have to struggle to assert your non-white side, especially if you are middle class, or especially if – as in Sprinkle’s daughter’s case – you are the child of parents who want to subvert your non-white side. (via)
I don't think there are any simple answers on this one -- you've pretty much got to make your own answers. But I thought it might be helpful to know that other people have had similar experiences.
posted by ourobouros at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2010

I live in a mixed race area, work in a mixed race environment, and am in a long term mixed race relationship. That being said, I have witnessed maybe a handful of blatantly racist incidents in the last couple of decades. The vast majority of the time, people relate to you based on you. Your personality, your "vibe", your skills, your abilities, how you treat people, etc. Reading your post, even if you didn't say what your race was, it seems to give off a negative vibe "poor me, I don't have any friends, people don't like me, etc" which is enough to make people react negatively to you. I would suggest being militantly positive, smiling at people, acting as if everyone thinks you are great, etc. Who cares if there are a few who don't? The vast majority will think you are wonderful if you treat them well and have confidence in yourself. You may want to read "How to Win Freinds and Influence People", join Toastmasters, join a group with people who have the same interests as you (maybe the Jr League was just cliquish...there are some groups of people who work on noble causes but still have junior high social attitudes--it's not you, it's them). Good luck!
posted by MsKim at 1:02 PM on February 15, 2010

I'm the white mother of a mixed-race son who is in his thirties. I found some links that might be helpful.

Feel free to email me here.
posted by mareli at 1:04 PM on February 15, 2010

What Brandon Blatcher said.

You will drive yourself insane wondering if it's racism. Sometimes people are just a-holes (and the Junior League is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the vortex of a-holeness, no matter your race, and no matter their strong profestations that they are a "service organization." (Apparently, you can only do service if you're rich and white.)

That said, there are just some simple realities of being a person of color in America ... or a woman ... or gay and that is: Some folks won't like you for who you are. I know I get better service at a few (very, very few) restaurants here in Phoenix when I'm with my white boyfriend (I'm black and you'd have to be both deaf and blind not to notice that.) F#!! 'em. It's their issue, not yours.

Have you tried looking for mulitcultural or progressive Meetups in your area on Have you considered joining a women entrepreneurs group so you can get tips/advice/support? How about looking for online communities with other biracial folks who have had similar experiences to yours? (I know many people with two black parents, by the way, who did not grow up in traditional black communities and feel much the same as you do.)

I'd also suggest doing some reading from folks like Rebekkah Walker (Alice's daughter) on being biracial in America. And spend some time owning who you are! (And your success!)

Good luck.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 1:04 PM on February 15, 2010

Well, it could be racism but I've learned that vast cultural groups in the U.S. do speak a different language. Which is why you still see many kids flocking to their own people in the lunchroom. Having experienced latin, american white, Carribean black and american black cultures, I can say with utmost certainty that our values are very different as groups, and even more individually. There are some things my white friends do, I would never think of doing, because it goes against my strong cultural values. The levels of respect varies greatly among many ethnic groups I've had the pleasure to get to know. And definitely the variables change as I learned respect is all perception.

For example, me pointing out how my ex's father was two shades lighter than him is a big disrespectful statement among many African Americans, however not as much within the Carribean community as my family always pointed out our physical differences with admiration. I didn't know this was considered disrespectful but given the history of American blacks, I understand why. The fact that some of my white friends dont mind caressing and slapping each other's asses, play humping (guys included), would be considered utmost disrespect among minorities in America. It's an invitation for someone to get smacked. So, when we first look at each other, we all have pre-conceived notions... this is part of being human.
In your experiences, it is racism. I'm not going to cover it up for you, because you've been through this, of not fitting in all your life. You speak English but culturally they don't feel you are one of them because of how you look, and automatically your experiences will be different than your white brothers and sisters. I'm Latina and I'm aware that my features and light skin get me noticed in a positive light.

Culturally speaking, I relate more to the Carribean community and it took awhile for my white friends to understand, just because I have straight black hair, small straight nose and olive skin, doesn't mean I'm a typical Latina or white. I grew up among black families, went to a mostly white school, don't speak Spanish and I'm a proud Puerto Rican. Odd right? I really couldnt find my place among my peers but since I speak the language of music, it served me well. And once my friends get to know me, they understand who and why I'm culturally the way I am. Sometimes you just have to give people a chance to really know you to melt away their ignorance. Otherwise, you can spend your life mad at the world and having life pass you by.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2010

I don't like to pull the "race card" but with so many situations in my life pointing at nothing else but that, what else am I to think?

If you use this reasoning, you're making it practically a foregone conclusion that you'll perceive yourself to be a victim of racism. People of all races have disappointments in life. People of all races have experiences where someone's rude to them and they think, "Huh, what was that about?"

But if I, a white person in the United States, have that kind of experience, I'm obviously unlikely to conclude, "It must have been because of my race!" I'll probably chalk it up to the fact that some people out there are ... just ... jerks, for no particular reason -- or, no particular reason that I'm aware of or care to find out. On the other hand, if you don't see any reason for someone mistreating you besides race, you'll conclude it was because of race.

After all, what else could it be?

Actually, though, that is not an entirely logical inference. It's a reflection of your own worldview, in which you look to racism as an all-purpose, fall-back explanation of other people's bad behavior anytime a non-race-related explanation is not apparent. Maybe next time something like this happens, you could imagine you were white (not biracial) -- so, race is out of the equation. How would you react? Would it be easier to brush off the experience and not be bothered by not having a rational explanation for people's behavior?

None of this is to deny that you might be experiencing racism. But you might not be, at least in some of the cases where you feel like you are. It's generally not possible to know for sure, considering that (1) people of all races face rudeness and disappointments and unfulfilling social situations at various points in their lives, and (2) racism is so taboo that, if someone actually is racist toward you, it's safe to assume they'll thoroughly cover up this fact.

And ... what Brandon Blatcher said.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:31 PM on February 15, 2010

The only question mark in your question is about whether or not these things you see are racism. Yeah, regardless of whatever other personal skills issues you may or may not have, many of them probably are (and some probably aren't - e.g., lots of neighbors don't speak to each other). But if it will help take any of the sting out of it, I think most of the time it's probably not the hate-inspired kind of thing we associate with the word racism given our history - it's the ethnocentric kind that seems to be natural to most people, unconscious, not intentional, not a targeted indictment of you. Typically I think people are most comfortable around and most trusting of people who look like they do and have similar backgrounds. Any landlord can be good or crappy, but when it's someone who looks different and is of a group you just don't know as much about, there can be less trust, whether due to ignorance, past misunderstandings, rumors/assumptions of misunderstandings, or genuine cultural differences. There can be a kind of falsely assumed trust within a race, like your racemates are looking out for you somehow, and an equally falsely assumed mistrust outside of the race, like people in other races are specifically not looking out for you and may even resent you and would enjoy seeing something go badly for you. Given the choice between two landlords, one familiar and the other less so, I think people will often make the choice that is more comfortable, maybe not even recognizing why. There appear to be a lot of evolved saints on this site who don't see color, but I think it definitely comes into play, more in subtle or even unconscious ways than in overtly consciously discriminatory ways.

But I don't think that's your real question, because what would you do if the answer was no - that it wasn't racism? You'd still be where you are. Isn't your question how to get by successfully in business without stupid hangups, how to be able to make friends without stupid barriers, and how to be a part of something, to have a home team or at least a guaranteed and welcome visiting spot on any team? Good news is, that means you're human, because we all need to belong, and nothing hurts so much as not being accepted or included. When I think of the foot-in-two-worlds-but-home-in-neither scenario for biracial people, it feels like it would be so sad to not feel like you fit. Bad news is I can't help there other than to blindly suggest support groups for biracial people. The core issue is one shared by a lot of people, so it's not an uncharted wilderness. I think you have to zero in specifically on people in the same situation. Nobody else can appreciate it enough to help.
posted by Askr at 1:46 PM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm latina and I grew up around people of all races, creeds and religions. I think my family has one of everything so I feel blessed that I grew up not seeing color. I have a good level of self esteem and friendships with all types of people, of different colors and different economic backgrounds. I wouldn't have it any other way.

As an adult I can't help but notice all the people (of different races) who were not raised in a diverse environment. I see a lot of racial groups clinging to their own. I think it's strange when people only have white friends or only have brown friends, or black or whatever and I feel sad for these people because it just seems so wrong to me to have no idea what "the other" might be like. They can't see that by being so color-centric (for whatever reason, usually it's not even a conscious thing) that it makes them appear like they might be racist. I find the most interesting and fun people with the most self esteem are always surrounded by people who are different from themselves. I guess it adds another layer to themselves in a way. When people only hang out with people who look like them and have the same backgrounds as them it seems to foster (again usually unconsciously) a fear (at worst) or a disinterest (at the least) of any "other."

That being said, you need to work on accepting yourself as a strong black woman. If you think people are being prejudiced against you at work because you're black and you think that they might act differently if they knew you were half white then maybe at work you can put a picture of you and your mom on your desk. It might open a dialogue with them where you can talk about your unique background without having to bring it up yourself. It might change the way they act, it might not.

I guarantee that the only person who sees this racism is you (and it does sound like racism) and therefore you are only hurting yourself by focusing on this. You yourself say you have more in common with the white folks, which sounds a little self-loathing to me because I know there are many people, some who even grew up with the same bi-racial background out there as you, who are just like you and are not white. As far as your rentals are concerned are you only trying to rent to white people because that's just as racist as what you're talking about.

Ultimately you are responsible for your own happiness so you have to take the appropriate steps to be happy. You can't change your skin color. You can't make people like you. You can go out of your way to find people who make you feel comfortable and surround yourself with them. Perhaps they won't be the people you imagined them to be, but as long as they make you feel comfortable and allow you to be you who cares. And really, who wants anything to do with racists anyway. Let them think what they want. I'd much rather a person be upfront about their racism so I can avoid them than try and hide it. You don't have to prove anything to anybody you just have to be you.
posted by wherever, whatever at 2:05 PM on February 15, 2010

I agree with "wherever" in that you basically need to work on accepting yourself.
There is a lot of literature (pop psychology) that you can read about stuff like this.

In a nutshell: there are levels and contexts in your mind, that define how you perceive life, reality, etc. If you start working on re-framing those higher contexts, you will change completely the way you see life, and thus, how life affects you.

Here are some questions that might help with this:
[note that these questions will challenge your core beliefs, and your identity. But they
can actually help you re-frame that context in your mind, and allow you to define it for yourself]

- describe the outlook on yourself and your reality. Do you see your reality as ap lace where you are in control? In your reality do things go your way? How would you change the way you view reality if you could?
- Do you see yourself as a woman that deserves success? Do you see yourself as a woman that other people, (white or black) naturally want to be around you? and accepting you?
- Do you believe that it's natural and easy to achieve success given your ethnic background?
- If you could change how you see yourself, how would you change it?
- if you could install some new beliefs in your mind that would increase your success in business, what would they be?

remember, you are in control of your reality!
posted by theKik at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2010

People talk a lot about trying to understand your social/cultural context a bit better, reframing your outlook, etc... One really good way to accomplish this that places less of a burden on you actively figuring out how to do that is by joining community/affinity/volunteer groups that are directly related to your cultural experience. That way, the learning process is a little bit more by osmosis, and as part of a semi-social atmosphere (the great benefit of volunteerism is that you don't have to succeed socially there--you're there to help out, and making friends is a secondary benefit which happens more naturally over a long stretch of time). That, and not putting all your eggs in one basket (and fer heaven's sake, if you're seeking acceptance, the Junior League isn't the right basket for you! Or me!). Expect that many social situations won't work out perfectly, and that you'll feel awkward--and that it's natural! It's expected! It's part of the process! It's tough to make friends, and to weigh whether you should cut your losses early (mean, exclusionary people) or stick around and assume everything will smooth over in time (you feel awkward, just haven't melded with the group yet), but figuring out that balance helps.
posted by soviet sleepover at 3:34 PM on February 15, 2010

I've sort of seen this thing with my SO, who is black but grew up in a predominately white area (suburban DC.) Sometimes she's just oversensitive (getting slow service at Starbucks, when I didn't get any faster service) and sometimes it's eye-opening (getting a frosty reception from a potential landlord because she passed the 'phone test' and wasted her time, or conversely getting frosty reception from black colleagues because she is, essentially, a race traitor.) Sometimes it's just funny, like when the black cashier wanted to know where she was from, since she didn't sound like her ("Australia" finally satisfied that one, although she's never even been there.)

In the end, I think she had the diagnoses nailed: "This is why we die from hypertension."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:13 PM on February 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Whether it's racism or not doesn't really matter. You might have something to blame your problems on but it's not going to make your life better. What it comes down to is you can't change other people, only your own behavior and see if they act differently.

I use to be ok around people but had a bad reaction to medication which slowly made me have more and more anxiety. When I didn't feel comfortable around people, they could definitely tell it and acted uncomfortable too. It was a nasty feed back loop. I ended up quitting the medication after I figured it out but had to learn the people/social skills I never knew or was too wound up to do with out having them spelled out exactly.

The reason I'm saying all this is it doesn't sound like you've had much of a chance to learn these skills with your background. Sometimes I feel like I'm at a huge disadvantage compared to people who are good with other people. It seems more important to be able to get along with people than being smart or having skills for most jobs and even more important for personal relationships.

I'm a book person so I looked on Amazon for "people skills". There's not much under social skills except for young kids. It has made a difference for me. I'm much better with talking to unknown people like cashiers, waiters, etc. I do better with making small talk with my neighbors. My experiences are much more positive. Maybe this could help you in the making friends department. I can't really say about business success but it seems like it should carry over.

This might sound corny but you might also try joining the YMCA. My mom who is definitely not social met a lot of people there just by going to the classes. It's weird but kind of nice to go to the grocery with my mom and almost always have someone say hello to her, sometimes 2 or 3. It seems to be a good place to meet new people of all ages.
posted by stray thoughts at 7:12 PM on February 15, 2010

There is a lot of racism denial in this thread. For an alternative perspective, I recommend:

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. Lists a set of unearned privileges which give [most] white people a comparatively smooth path through life. Suggests that racism is invisible to those whom it benefits most.

Racism: I Can Fix it by Damali Ayo. Teaches white people how to recognise, confront and work against casual and institutional racism. Offers suggestions for people of colour on how to stay sane in a world where racism isn't going away any time soon.

Long story short: yes, you are experiencing racism. Western society is saturated with it, and simply changing your 'attitude' as some commenters suggest won't make it go away. I'm sorry, Metafilter doesn't do race discussions very well. You might find a more supportive ear at forums or blogs which specifically target people of colour. Your experiences are real and you deserve to have them heard and validated, not dismissed.
posted by embrangled at 6:38 AM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is a lot of racism denial in this thread.

posted by Jaltcoh at 6:47 AM on February 16, 2010

Have you tried looking for mulitcultural or progressive Meetups in your area on Have you considered joining a women entrepreneurs group so you can get tips/advice/support? How about looking for online communities with other biracial folks who have had similar experiences to yours? (I know many people with two black parents, by the way, who did not grow up in traditional black communities and feel much the same as you do.)

I agree with this. In my experience actions don't clearly connect to intentions, so the bad service at McDonald's could be racism, or could be race-blind asininity. You can't always tell. So, some of the bad things that happen in your life are due to racism. You might not always know which, but in any case you need to cope with this uncertainty on an ongoing basis. You should make friends with people who have had similar concerns and experiences. Support networks provide voice, second opinions, and reality checks for their members. There won't always be a consensus; day to day there are dozens of incidents that I might interpret as racial and that a friend or my SO might not, and vice versa. But that's ok. What you need is a peer's compassion and ear. AskMe can support you for a little while, but you need (well, everyone needs) real-life, in-person support.
posted by halonine at 8:17 AM on February 16, 2010

I'm an upper-middle-class-raised white male married to a lower-middle-class-raised woman of similar ancestry to you, anon. We're both close to 40, emotionally open and good communicators, and are pretty comfortable talking about the issues you and others have raised in this thread. Particularly, the recent "invisible knapsack" talk has really interested us, as it points out that I do not and cannot know the advantages given to me.

All this is to say I pretty much agree with most of what's been said here--in many, many cases, you will be simply unable to tell if the bad treatment you get is due to racism or not, and that, in many, but not all, cases, your perception will be incorrect.

Likewise, though, in many, but not all, cases, your perception will be correct.

It definitely helps to live in a multicultural area where you can find others in the same boat. Here in DC, half the folks we know are in inter-racial relationships of one sort or another, so it's easy to find folks who can be conversant on the topic, from the inside. I think that's the key.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:28 AM on February 16, 2010

It seems you and I have similar backgrounds. I, too, am an interracial child raised in the 80's and 90's by my Caucasian mother in what could best be described as a culturally Caucasian household. I've gone to schools where I was often the only person of color in the class. My father was absent and I have had little to no contact with his side of the family. A strong African-American influence or presence has been absent from my life.

We all wear culturally-tinted lenses through which we see and experience the world. Many life factors affect how these lenses are created and they view that they afford one, including one's race.

I think that my lenses,and perhaps yours, are specialized, for lack of a better term, as they were shaped to see and consider the world through both Caucasian and African American eyes simultaneously.

In a way, it's trained me to see shades of bias of which others may not be aware. But, by the same token, it's made my hyper-sensitive to perceiving mistreatment as racism rather than as the person just being an old-fashioned jerk.

While I do see and experience what I am certain is racist behavior, what I've tried to teach myself to see more is the inability of some to look past society's labels and the implied background information that these labels imply. It honestly never occurs to some that people can possess personal or cultural traits that are outside of the commonly assumed category of race.

For instance, I can't tell you how many people have told me that they thought I was white based on the sound of my voice over the phone. Or, the housing authority at my college assuming that I would be more comfortable living with a black roommate each of the three times they assigned me new roomates.

Sometimes, my perceptions of racism are spot on. Sometimes, I'm dead wrong. I assume the same is true for you, too.

Over the years, I've tried to teach myself to see such poor behavior as obliviousness on the part of the other rather than as pure racism. While it does not completely take away the sting, assuming that a lot of these types interactions are of the oblivious kind has helped me work through a lot of the anger at not being seen for who I am rather than "what" I am.
posted by eviltiff at 9:48 AM on February 18, 2010

P.S. I'm MrMoonPie's wife, mentioned earlier.
posted by eviltiff at 12:30 PM on February 19, 2010

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