Ignorance is bliss?
As we develop our ideals of Mixed, I want to share some of my experiences with my own ignorance and some things I have learned. If you don't feel like reading this entire entry here is my summary: if you don't experience something personally it does not mean it doesn't exist or isn't an issue.
I grew up in a town called Snohomish - it is a smallish town north of Seattle. I went to the local High School there in town.
If you don't know anything about that area there is very little diversity. A lot of farm lands on the outside of town and an older downtown with antique shopping. I have included a chart below to give you a snapshot of the demographics of my high school below
My High School WA State Average
Now, this is not a post to put this area down. I love my hometown and I met a lot of great people there. But - growing up in this area shaped a lot of my thinking that turned into blind spots and biases.
I never saw or experienced biases or racism (or so I thought). I just didn't see it because there was not much diversity, most of my friends were white, and it was not an issue I personally dealt with. In my mind, I had built this beautiful ideal of a society that had moved past color - like I was taught in the history books. I was blissfully ignorant to put it in simple terms.
When I moved to Ellensburg to attend college, I was met with more diversity at the college level. I was excited at this new realm of people and experiences but with it came another level of biases that I didn't know I was developing. When I met Cordell where we worked on campus together, I thought he was goofy, loud, not my type, and I didn't trust his motives. It took a long time of being around him to realize what a great heart he had.
The experience I would really like to share with you - my WOW moment. Is when Cordell and I first started dating. I was at his house and his neighbors boyfriend came banging on our door like they were police. We opened the door slightly shocked and they immediately started yelling at us about parking because his girlfriend couldn't get out. They were mocking my husband moving their arms around saying "you came out with your dew rag on" (um okay?) and saying he was using terms like "homeboy" "my mans" and that he had blocked her in on purpose. (she could have gotten out of the spot but that is beside the point). My husband, being non-confrontational and reasonable said he wouldn't mind moving his car out so she could get out then he would park where she was because he was able to move in and out of the spot. They didn't want to listen to anything he had to say and completely ignored me. This went on very uncomfortably until my husbands roommate came back (who happened to be white) and they exclaimed "Finally someone we can talk to." This is where we shut the door and let them handle it.
Here was my reaction to this experience - "Wow, they were not very nice, how unreasonable." My husband looked at me and said, "Jenessa, they were racist."
And it took me a while to absorb that.... I was seeing racism with my own eyes and I still had not recognized it until it was named to me.
Since then, I have heard a lot that my husband has shared with me and dealt with smaller scale comments myself. On more than one occasions we will be sitting with our kids and someone asks if they are his. When we moved into our second house, one of the neighbor assumed we were the renters. These are small comments that probably would have slide right by me before.
It is hard for me when people claim that they don't have biases (this is not only about being black and white) or racism doesn't exist based on just their own experiences. We are all a product of our own experiences and story and that is okay. But we should be open to hearing and validating the experiences of others as well. After all, the world is only becoming more Mixed.
Snohomish High School Profile (2020-21) | Snohomish, WA (publicschoolreview.com)