The town I live in is full of Donald Trump stickers, farmland, and if you’re quiet enough, the sound of confederate flags waving aggressively in the air. Growing up, a girl named Alex and her friends constantly called my skin the color of poop, hit me and once threw me against the wall. I transferred but I still couldn’t escape racism no matter how hard I wanted to. Little black girls don’t know they are small and unwanted until they move to Hicksville and are told so, and even out of Hicksville being black isn’t fun. I have so many stories on Confederate Flag City but will digress and give some words of wisdom on how I survived it. Whether you are a woman, gay, Trans, lesbian, Muslim, Native American, Arab, (yes there is a difference between a Muslim and an Arab), or placed in any category overshadowed by whiteness, here are some tips on surviving the constant struggle of growing up in a whitewashed land of misogyny.
Read the works of oppressed people. We are taught from white men’s textbooks and literature in school and are in dire need of an awakening. Suzan Lori Parks saved my life; reading her plays made me feel less pointless. Song of Solomon gave me a reason to wake up, because I needed that support. If you need recommendations please @ me on twitter.
2. Never allow anyone to tell you what to feel or what you should do to overcome your struggle.
Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. There are people who are coming from a good place who will try to help you with your problems, but a lot of the times it’s just ignorance. I’ve been told how I feel as a black woman from people who have no idea what goes on in my world. That’s one thing we can’t allow: to be marginalized and have words put in our mouths. They will never understand you and are not allowed to tell you how you feel.
3. Get ready to change the world.
You need a big plan to get out of a small town. A lot of kids in my town waste away high school, stay home and tell themselves they’ll leave. They never do. (Sounds familiar right?) Make a plan, think about a change you want to see in the world and make it happen. The best way to cope in this world is to make it your own.
4. Keep a diverse circle
It opens you up to a lot of different perspectives. It will also lead you to see that although people can be cruel and ignorant they are people who are also victims of an unjust system.
6. Focus on your health
It will make you happier. Watch how you eat and keep track of your fitness. It’ll give you something to focus on. Mental health is also extremely important.
7. Never be the “Gay friend” “Black girlfriend” or “Muslim acquaintance”
Bigotry is real. Never let anyone trick you into thinking discrimination is okay, and that you should be their token because all that will do is accumulate internalized hatred in you. For example, I allowed my ex to say anti-black comments, fetishize me, and hide me away from his family for the duration of the relationship. Don’t do that. This applies to misogynistic relationships as well because they are constantly praised on social media and shouldn’t be.
8. Find love
This for me ended up being my best friend. She is the greatest person I have ever met and I have found happiness and peace in our relationship. I also find solace in my younger sister. It is not your storybook love story, but I’m not your whitewashed storybook girl.
9. You are art
You are a work in progress, there will be blunders but essentially I urge you to push past the backwards thoughts forced on you and to flourish and create yourself.
“I hate it when people say go find yourself. There’s not a coat in a room waiting for you to find it with your name on it, you have to go into the world and create yourself.” ~Isabella Lorenzo
Write, dance, debate, put your perspectives in a form that we can absorb because we need to. We need art and all of our creations to reflect the world as it is. These are also great outlets.
I hope that my words were of some motivation. Always remember that only you define yourself.