Am I Asking to Feel Bad About Racism?

June 30, 2009

Typically I write about current events or reports that pertain to racial justice - I am a racial justice blogger, after all, and I feel a sense of responbility to circulate news that I feel is worth thinking about. I was going to write about a story I ran into on a parenting blog, in which Cirila Baltazar Cruz's new born daughter was placed immediately into foster care by authorities because her mother did not speak English and was an undocument citizien. Authorities claimed these reasons made Cruz a possible danger to her child. I read this story, and considered the ways in which racism and xenophobia play a role in tearing apart families and further endangering the well being of children, and I cried about it while I walked home from work. I'm still processing the ways in which particular injustices played out for the Cruz family.

I occasionally get into conversations with people about systemic oppression and the way it affects aspects of our lives, and feel myself shut down when I hear something along the lines of the following:

"If these things [news about racial injustice, sexism, homophobia] make you so upset and unhappy, why do you keep digging for those stories?"

Simple enough: hearing about issues of violence, hate, and injustice, sometimes even in the movies or in media, can be so upsetting or emotionally draining to process, why keep reading stories about ugly accounts of injustice, discrimination and the affects of the white racial frame everyday?

My response is typically curt: "Turning away from those stories may seem like an option to you, but it's not going to be an option for me." Avoiding reading about racism and sexism and homophobia won't help me - I see the work of those systems in my life and the lives of my loved ones. It's apparently fine to rehash the importance of global warming and the recession but when I go to alternative sources of media for news about communities whose stories often go under reported or are unfairly represented, then apparently I'm 'asking' to be upset.

And it is upsetting. It's exhausting and tiring to feel strongly about tired old stereotypes, problematic verdicts and continuing disparities across educational and economic lines. It's also exhausting to examine my own life and consider my own privileges and experiences with racism and sexism. But that's life. We have to be driven to do the work that remains important to us, and we must continue to educate ourselves, speak out, and be critical of the world around us. We must be committed allies in our day to day life. We must also take care of ourselves, our bodies and our mental health. We must seek out loved ones and find a space to speak our personal truths. And we must slowly create thick skin for ourselves, for survival.


Nina Jacinto is a freelance blogger living in the Bay Area whose writing focuses on issues of race, gender, and media representation. She's a graduate of Pomona College and loves South Asian diaspora narratives, bargain shopping, and the Internet.


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Comments

Thank you for this. I especially appreciate how you ended your piece because taking care of ourselves when we live in such a painful world is hard but so important. I, too, read more about racial justice issues than any other. The only e-newsletters I subscribe to are either about education or some form of racial issues. I recently read a book by a black woman where she lamented the fact that blacks have to think about racism all the time and whites don&;t. I am a white woman who thinks about race issues all the time. I am always aware of people&;s races and how people are portrayed or treated or present themselves and what it has to do with race. It makes sense that a black person would be this way. What do black people think of a white person who is this way?