I stopped sharing my personal experiences with racism a long time ago.
One, because they happened so often that it was normal and the last thing I wanted to do after experiencing it was to re-live this normalcy in any way by experiencing it through my own words again.
Second, because when I did share it with people, particularly white women,
I would get responses like:
“Oh, I totally understand where you’re coming from because I too have experienced the same.”
(which would then be followed up with a story that was not racism but some other ism)
“Can you tell me more about this?”
(which would then be followed up with 72 questions that would make me feel like I needed to legally defend my experience)
“I don’t think you really experienced this.”
(which would then be followed up with all the ways I had imagined what I experienced,
what I felt, who I was.)
While I believe that all women can potentially experience some form of gender discrimination and/or gender prejudice against them, it is not the same as experiencing race and gender discrimination at the same time.
It is not the same as experiencing direct racial prejudice based solely on how you identify.
It is not the same as experiencing racism.
And I can’t even begin to explain the physical and emotional experience that happens when you are forced to “prove” your story to someone who hasn’t recognized the gift that is in being able to hear it in the first place. I remember each of those moments and they made feel unseen, unheard, and gaslighted.
So, I stopped sharing. When asked now, I shut it all the way down. If I know I may be in a space where I will be asked to share, I opt out. I’ve chosen to protect my story and my peace. But I know others who, unlike me, are still willing to share.
Here’s my advice when they do:
Before you go and attempt to “ me too” someone’s experience with racism, stop questioning and invalidating what you are hearing. Pause and ask yourself to stop attempting to compare or relate. They are not the same and never will be. Instead, if someone chooses to share their story with you, do one thing: