Experience Makes a Difference
Everything is different once you have experienced it yourself.
Racism is different once you have experienced it. Sexual harassment and assault are different once you have experienced it.
You can try to mentally prepare yourself for the day you are called a racial slur or racially profiled. You can try to prepare yourself for the day you are touched inappropriately.
But nothing will be the same once it actually happens to you.
You may think you have it all figured out. You may think you know exactly how you’ll react. But the truth is, you don’t know until it happens.
African American parents have to teach their children how to act in white neighborhoods, how to act around police, how to act when they eventually hear a racial slur or get racially profiled. Parents of young girls have to warn them of the dangers of walking alone at night or leaving drinks unattended. Then there's the parents of young black girls whom have to touch on both of these subjects.
What these parents have in common is that they have to teach their children places and people to avoid simply because of whom they are and how they were born. Which is somehow their fault for being born that way or dressing a certain way.
The unfortunate part is, you can prep your children and even yourself, for that day, but you still won’t know the truth until it happens.
You don’t know how severe the situation may be. You don’t know how severe the mental, emotional, and physical pain may be. You don’t know how you will react.
I am a white female. I cannot speak on experiencing racism. But I can speak on sexual harassment in many forms. From being whistled at, touched on the back, and having my butt grabbed; those are just the nonchalant forms of harassment I have experienced.
Let's talk about one not so nonchalant. I was leaving a bar to get an Uber alone one evening in DC. A drunk man I've never seen before came out of the second floor as I was walking down from the third. He saw me, picked me up, carried me the rest of the way out of the bar and tried to tell me I was going home with him. Wouldn’t let me finish ordering the Uber. Wanted me to walk down the street with him. All of security watched the whole thing and said nothing. Luckily, I remained calm and went along with his charade long enough to sneak an Uber behind his back while he was hugging me, and I left. Luckily, that man was not more aggressive or violent, or I may be telling a different story today.
That man was a firefighter (at least according to him). Whether he lied or not, that is a position most are taught to trust, right?
Regardless, I was reminded I am not invincible or an exception to the warnings my parents gave me growing up.
The sad thing is, I have other stories. First and second-hand ones that are much more aggressive, much more disgusting and R-rated than this. And I likely will continue to have these things occur just because I am a female.
I may be white, but I know many stories of my black friends facing racism in all forms. They are not my stories to tell, therefore I won't. But many of their stories involve incidents at work, from other friends, and "driving while black." These stories are why myself, and the company I have created will never condone anything such as racism, sexual harassment, or targeting of any kind. I want to make the world a better place. A positive place of equality, and a place where people can feel safe in their own skin no matter their gender or race.
Voice your opinions, but the ones that should really matter, and the ones you should really listen to, are the ones that have experienced it first-hand. No one knows the truth better than them.