In Light of Tragedy

Since the news broke yesterday about the attacks on Paris and every post since then, I have been trying to assemble my thoughts into something appropriate to say.

No one denies the horror of what happened in Paris. Some have questioned the media coverage: why aren’t we talking about Lebanon? They had a tragedy too! Why aren’t we talking about Mexico? They had an earthquake!

I just want to say, what happened in the world yesterday was horrible. It was a terrible day for humanity. I am sorry for those lives. I am sorry for those families.

To those of us blessed enough to not be directly affected, let us be silent for a moment. Leave your politics, leave your comparisons, leave your complaints, and be silent.

Media coverage does not ease the loss of life. Hashtags do not make problems go away. No tragedy is greater than another. Tragedy is tragedy. We mourn. We will recover. And I pray to God we can move towards peace.

xoxo

Kam

Is My Generation “Oversensitive” or Tired?

In light of the recent events at Mizzou and other mostly college-based incidents, many people have shared the opinion that my generation (mostly current students) have become overly sensitive and are being coddled with things like “trigger warnings” and the term “hate crimes.”

Now I have long been a defender of freedom of speech. As a writer, and one whose opinions are often somewhat inflammatory, I need the first amendment to support my rights. I would even go so far as to say I am on the fence when it comes to unlimited free speech, which is essentially the concept in question as Mizzou. However, historically the line that has been drawn between things protected by freedom of speech and things not protected has been found in the concept of “clear and present danger.”

Quick history lesson: essentially, your speech cannot be limited by government action unless it involves a clear and present danger, based on the Supreme Court Ruling in Schenck vs. United States in 1919. Basically, you can’t yell “fire” in a movie theatre, unless there is a fire.

What does that have to do with my generation? The argument some are making is that free speech is too limited now because my generation is overly sensitive to things like racial slurs, cultural appropriation, and anything else that “might” be seen as discriminatory. I would agree, in some cases it has gone too far, Mizzou is not one of them. There is a difference between someone claiming or even feeling “offended” and someone feeling threatened.

We get it. You’re tired of hearing about race issues. You’re tired of hearing that black lives matter. You’re tired of someone’s name becoming a hashtag every single week, but let me tell you: people of color ar tired of living in an oppressive society. They are tired of being told that their feelings are not valid because we’re a postmodern society that doesn’t see color. They’re tired of being told that racism ended when every week another name becomes a hashtag. Another group of white students thinks it’s funny to make fun of a people that has been enslaved, marginalized, and outright disrespected in this nation from the minute they were shoved onto a boat. It’s one thing if a white friend says the n-word in a playful way. It’s not okay, but it might not cause much uproar. It is another thing to use the n-word for its original intention- to dehumanize black people. That is what is happening at Mizzou, among other real threats.

We’ve all heard of the old question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Today, social media is the sound. Police brutality, racist fraternities, hate crimes are not new. They have been here forever, but no one was around to tweet about it. My generation seems “oversensitive” because we’re the first generation where every single one of us has a voice online. I don’t have to try to get my name on a newspaper or spoken in the news. I type #ConcernedStudent1950 and hundreds of people see what I’m saying. Issues like this feel so loud now because they’re all around us on every website.

To say that Mizzou students are “oversensitive” is offensive. By saying this, you are contributing to the systematic racism that started the whole thing. It’s your fault. Do not tell them that their feelings are invalid because they are finally saying something about them. If fear is an invalid feeling, let me remind you that George Zimmerman got away with murder based on his “fear.”

xoxo

Kam

The Race Thing

To answer the big question of “what am I?” I am mixed black and white. My father was black and my mother is white, and I am a beautiful caramel macchiato.

This has never really been a problem for me. When I was in first grade a girl asked me if I was adopted when she saw my mom, but that’s been pretty much the extent of my raced-based interactions. I struggle with my hair. People ask “What am I?” and sometimes men approach me with a reluctant, “Hola?” thinking I am Latina.

The quick answer and identity I used for college applications was and always has been black. Partially because I’ve always just kind of felt black, and partially because whatever I am, I am simply not white. However, I realized something this week. I am very white.

No, I wasn’t trying to prove my dance moves. I wasn’t complaining about the food being too spicy. I was actually in a classroom. My writing professor assigned a reading to us about “Black English,” and one teacher’s passion for teaching the cultural dialect as a written language. I could not have felt whiter.

The goal of the piece was to highlight the issues with “Standard English,” and to speak to the injustice done to the black community by not accepting their syntax as “proper.” This did not sit well with me. I was raised to not say “ain’t,” not use double negatives, and to enunciate each word carefully. I’ve spent years drilling the rules of English grammar into my skull, and here this professor seemed to be undoing all my hard work.

I don’t want to address the question of prejudice here. I want to speak more about my own experience and identity that was brought to light from this lesson.

I found myself hating this piece because I was angry that someone was saying my precious rules for grammar were systematically oppressive. Then I was confused because in feeling this anger, was I coming from a place of internalized racism? This begged a larger question, and one I have kind of held in the back of my head since coming to college: am I black enough? There are things I know and things I am not sure about. I know that I stand against racism. I am not sure I am a victim of it.

I know, especially compared to too many other people of color, I have never experienced outright personal racism. But have I internalized it based on the fact that I can’t get down with “Black English?” I know some people would tell me yes. I only hate Black English because the white man has told me to hate Black English. But I think I actually, as a writer, as a rule follower, enjoy conforming to the rules of standard English. Yes, these rules came from a bunch of white men, but so did the Constitution and I do love my freedom of Speech.

I don’t know where my endgame here is. I guess, if you are someone who wants to speak and write in “Black English” I can’t and won’t try to stop you, but I’m not going to use it myself. And I don’t think that makes me any less black. I think it means I was raised differently or come from a different culture. I will respect that it does not make you less educated or less refined, as the piece pointed out, students who tried to switch from Standard English to Black English had trouble conforming to its rules. And even if it was “easy” it would not be invalid.

I guess my point is, don’t make me choose. I cannot choose which race I want to be every day. I don’t think any part of me is strictly based in one-half of my chromosomes. I just don’t want to feel like I’m betraying either one of my races in saying this, so I’m not going to. I’m mixed, and that’s not important because at the end of the day I’m Kamaron no matter what.

xoxo,

Kam