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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Community DisUnity

This Olympic year, the whole U.S. gymnastic team was called out for their messy ponytails, which I did wonder about.

Still there was more criticism for black team member Gabby from within the black community.

Oh, the familiar discomfort of being called out by one’s race because of something specific to said race.

I think this only happens in ethnic communities. 

Maybe it is more universal than those of us who have never lived abroad can realize.

I first experienced it as I was sliding into puberty.

I did not have the world looking at me. Thank goodness. I did not even really think it was that big of a deal at the time.

Damage however was being done.

Logically I wanted to protect myself from those who because we are the same color would think they have the right to tell me how to act, dress, wear my hair or think.

So I put up a wall.

It can be hard to be a part of a community you feel judges you.
I turned my attention to people who felt safe.

It is only in the last few years that this wall has been coming down.

Meeting with other people who experienced the same thing has been healing and reassuring.

Recent events have further spurred changes for me. Growth, maturity, release, confidence I am not sure what it is or what exactly the trigger was.

I am not sure I would be sharing if there had not been this recent very public display of the issue.

It has been delightful to see the response both from Gabby and the community at large: 

Aesthetics aside it is the person and their accomplishments that count. Get over yourselves.

In some ways I needed to direct my focus even if I did not exactly need a wall.

My life was going to take me outside the familiar surroundings of my younger years.

If I had left looking for people who looked like me to be warm and welcoming at the very least I would have limited my options and opportunities.

To this day I do not define myself by my race or over identify with ethnic culture. 

I like very much being an individual and even being in groups when I am the token person of color.

I defy assumption. I like to be a bit shocking and outside of the box. That is what my friends love about me.

Things might have been totally different if I had grown up with sisters.