It was a Saturday afternoon when the confrontation began. I had just woken up, conventional waking hours aside, when I received a slew of angry text accusations from a friend and fellow graduate classmate. Although seething from being yelled at, I made amends for the wrongs that I didn’t commit and explained my side of the story.
This is where race comes in.
A few nights ago, this white friend/classmate drunkenly petted my hair during a reading and it was very uncomfortable for me. At first, I didn’t want to tell her because I thought, ‘she was drunk. It’s whatever.’ But then, she sent the angry text messages and it came to light.
I told her it gave me flashbacks of a time when a few white women bothered me in Seattle. They touched my hair and called me exotic. I told her I quickly shook it off because I knew she didn’t mean it that way and that hair petting is a common gesture when drunk.
But her response was rather unsavory.
She said, “Not all white women will call you exotic. Especially me.”
Instead of understanding and accepting my trauma for what it was, she deflected. She used a silencing technique to manipulate the situation and make me the “bad guy.” Whether intentional or not, in that moment, she made me feel like I didn’t have a voice.
I didn’t accuse her of being racist or of calling me exotic. I told her that her drunken petting, which I was going to ignore, made me uncomfortable.
And I have a right to feel uncomfortable.
I’ve been mulling this encounter over in my head, and it’s not helping my mental health. I keep hearing the phrase “Not all white people-” and I cringe. No person of color deserves to be silenced by that statement. Not me. Not anyone.
Today, I make the decision to no longer tolerate white deflection. I don’t know what I’ll do when I come across it, but I know I won’t let myself be silenced.