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My roommate called me a nigger: being an agent of change




For the last year, I lived in a household with three other roommates. I loved it for many reasons-the house was nice, the neighborhood was friendly, but I mostly loved it because of their dogs. They all had huge pups that made me feel safe and protected at all times, which is not a feeling that I am used to. Because of the traumatic stress that I experienced at a young age, I have always had this feeling that I should be on alert. I have always been jumpy. I constantly checked over my shoulder. In previous situations, I was always checking locks on windows and doors. Nothing had ever quite made me feel safe, but these pups made me feel so protected.



At some point, the relationship between myself and my female roommate took a turn for the worst. There was one night when she came home yelling about how I had left the mess that her dogs had made for her, their owner, to clean up. I came out of my room and commenced to yell back. I was finally tired of and done with her constant nagging and criticism- they were HER DOGS. So I yelled and yelled for the first time ever. I actually yelled at the top of my lungs. I could feel months of tension releasing as I yelled at her. Then, she said it. I think her words were “you’re a ghetto black bitch”. Things escalated, after which she ran out the door and called me a “nigger bitch”. 

I have experienced racism on many levels, many times in my life. I have been called a “black monkey” in a grocery store parking lot once before. Needless to say, this experience was not new to me. However, the emotions that came with it were new. While she called me a ghetto black bitch and a nigger bitch, there were 3 other people in the room who could have spoken up. Instead of turning their attention to her and correcting her, they instead focused on me. I was told to calm down. I was told that my actions could land me in jail if it escalated further. This was true. But the issue here was not my anger. The issue was my roommate’s expression of her internalized oppression towards me.

When she said those things to me, I was offended. I was offended because there is nothing “ghetto” about me. I have a bachelor’s degree, I am working on my master’s degree. I’ve never been in trouble in my life. Hell, I’ve never even been suspended from school. The extent of me record goes to a speeding ticket I got on campus during my undergraduate degree. So, the fact that someone could place that value judgement on my character was hurtful. Definitely not new, but still hurtful. Also, this situation was the first time in my life that I really let go and let my anger show. As a black woman, I have been given the message over and over again that I should be seen and not heard. This was the first time that I ever let go of that in order to defend myself, and I was demonized into being a ghetto bitch because of it. 

It hurt, but I’m glad that it happened because for future reference I know that in situations like those, it is always about the person spewing racism and never about the person that the racism is directed towards. I could be a saint and she would still deduce me to a nigger because of who SHE is, not because of who I am. 

If you consider yourself an ally, you might be stumped as to how you can actually be an agent of change in our society. With the election just passing, I see so many people who are motivated to just do SOMETHING, but they are not sure what to do. I am here to tell you that microagressions (small, barely detectable acts of racism and sexism) occur EVERY SINGLE DAY. While taking that trip to Cambodia and helping women who are trafficked is great (good for you if this is your passion, rock on!), there are things you can do here and now on a smaller level to help to reduce the effect of the isms. 

USE YOUR VOICE TO STAND FOR THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED.

Like I said, there were 3 other people present who could have said something to my roommate about her comments and they, instead, chose to use their voices to further oppress me by telling me not to be angry about what she said. I understand that in some situations, we do not know what to say or how to say it. I encourage you, even if you stumble over your words, just say something. You could be helping to repair a wound for someone who has been experiencing oppression their whole lives. These microaggressions take place in the workplace, in class, on the bus, everywhere. So even if you don’t get it perfect, just say something. 

WEAR THE SAFETY PIN AND START CONVERSATIONS

If you do not yet know what the safety pin symbolizes, google it. Some women of color have criticized it because white people are wearing it and then stopping there. It’s kind of like Tyra Banks would say to models on her show who were just doing the minimal amount of work- they were “resting on pretty”. Stop resting on pretty, allies. If you are going to wear the pin, do it AND be prepared to have conversations with people about things like racism, sexism, and xenophobia. That is the point of the pin. So don’t just rest on pretty. Be prepared to do some work.

JOIN A CAUSE

What are you passionate about? For me it is helping women and children from underserved communities. So I am volunteering a few hours every week with a cause that I think will help make change for that population. It does not have to be a grand gesture, like the trip to Cambodia that I mentioned. It can be something as small as volunteering 3 to 5 hours to a cause that helps promote social justice. If it is the microagressions that build up the system, then it has to be the small things that we do that help to tear it down. 

REACH OUT

There is so much more that we can do, but I will make this my last tip. Over the last week I have had a number of my friends text or call and tell me that they are standing with me. This meant more than any of them will ever know. Oppression is isolating. That is how it stands strong. It gets those of us with less resources alone and backs us into a corner. If all of the allies can reach out to their loved ones who they know might be affected by what is happening in the U.S. then we truly will be stronger. Together, we can move mountains. I believe that and even if you are just providing an outlet for a person of color to release the baggage that society lays on them, then you are doing your part. 

My message to allies: Thank you. I know that it is not easy, but even taking the time to read something like this shows that you  want to make change and that means something to me. If you have any questions about my experience or how you can be a more helpful ally, please leave them in the comments below!

Please subscribe and join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lunachicks.org. I hope this helps!

As always with love,
Alli B
Sonny B
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Alli B is the voice behind lunachicks.org. She is a self-defined weird (queer) black woman who is a survivor of mental illness and childhood sexual trauma. She is a lover of people and a lover of God. Alli’s mission in life is to empower and inspire those who have gone through or who are going through any type of darkness. Her loves are her family, books, writing, movies, and football (Go Broncos!). The boring stuff: Alli received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University in 2013. She is now working on her Master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology and is expected to graduate in May of 2018. Alli's goal is to work with underserved populations of women and children through private practice. Her life goals include: running a successful blog, publishing her books, and becoming a successful therapist.

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