There’s this great line (lie?) we’re told about one door opening when another closes. It’s meant to inspire hope and motivate us when we’re down. What we realise, unfortunately, when we go out into the world is that those doors open only for a select few. For some of us, doors just keep slamming in our faces.
For years, I was oblivious to what was happening around me. There were warning signs but I didn’t see them. Classic case of ‘if it hasn’t happened to me, it isn’t happening’. I’m quite vocal, generally, about issues such as racism, sexism and homophobia (hence the name, Justice) but I thought I was in a safe space so, surely there was no racism around me.
Unlike what most people think, racism isn’t always blatant. It’s the subtle incidents that eat away at you until one day you wake up and you realise, guess what, that job you wanted, you’re too non-white to get it. Or worse, you realise that all those things you have to say, nobody will listen to you because you’re not the right colour. Why is that worse, you ask? Because you can’t fight against people not listening and neither can you prove it. So, it eats away at you.
What’s even harder to deal with is the fact that a lot of people aren’t intentionally trying to be racist. They generally are perfectly normal, friendly, even lovely, people. They just don’t realise that their not giving someone a chance is coloured (pardon the pun) by their prejudice. For these folks, racists are the evil slave-owners of yore, not the regular guy drinking a coffee and hanging out with people of all nationalities, colours and creed. They actually think of themselves as advanced; they speak about their travels to Africa, South America, the Indian Subcontinent, anywhere they feel the ‘culture’ is at. Of course, when it comes to pronouncing names from those nations, they make fun of the names but not their inability to pronounce them.
A lot of people in such situations just learn to suck it up and power through and they are to applauded. But, I’ve never faced this before. How do I deal with it? How do I wake up in the morning and step through the doors of my former ‘safe’ haven? How do I face these people, so oblivious to their prejudices and still so powerful? What are my options in a world where white is still might? If you have any answers or suggestions, I’ll be glad to read them. For now, I’ll play the waiting game.