I Can’t Fix Everything

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And that is ok with me. I realized this a little while ago and it’s been refreshing to let things go. Maybe it’s the being the (De facto) eldest among my siblings, but I’ve become the De facto mother hen in a lot of different contexts and for different groups of people. That is NOT a role I volunteered to play. Frankly, I am tired of it and so many other things. I acknowledge that until people are real with themselves and about what changes they need to make in life, change will not take root. I know what it feels like to sit with someone for hours as they ask me about planning out scenario a, b, or c and warning them against D and they turn around and pick D anyway… Somehow I started thinking in these contexts that the blame was mine, that I wasn’t convincing enough. But, it’s not about me. It’s not my fault. And most importantly, it’s not my responsibility.

It’s not my job to clean other people’s messes, both literally and figuratively. People wouldn’t believe how apropo this has been for my life…. how for the first time perhaps ever in life, I am letting things and people go… I am letting the chips fall where they may.

The most amazing part is that earth didn’t swallow me or anyone else whole. It’s not my job to fix things. I can’t fix everything. If I spend so much time trying to hold everyone else together, what I eventually end up with is a very broken and fatigued me.

So yeah, going hand in hand with expecting nothing, is being somewhat numb to other people’s life choices… Adults are adults and every adult is entitled to their own decisions and can make up their own mind about whatever they choose to make a priority. Sometimes people will end up making mistakes they would not have had they listened to me… but that is not my fault, that is not my problem. Heck, not just adults, the same goes for any other living thing.

So will continue to do what I can, when  I can, but  I am under no obligation to hold up half the sky for anyone. Gazelle’s shoulders are much too small for all of that.

This affirmation/realization has been quite freeing for me. I can’t fix everything, I am not obligated to fix anything.  I too need to acknowledge what needs to be changed in order for change to take root. And hand in hand with that is undergoing a self valuation… ha ha…

At the end of the day people are people and they will do whatever they feel is in their best interest however narrowly or widely defined those interests are. At the end of the day, my intentions or sincerely wanting the best for myself or person x, y or z may have nothing to do with their intentions towards me or in spite of me: love, respect, kindness, peace, support, none of these are guaranteed to be reciprocated.  And even when they are not reciprocated, it’s not a reflection of my not being good enough.

It’s more about reflecting on the space and time that those individuals take up in my life and adjusting accordingly… whether that means giving them the BOOT! (ha ha)… or just 2% of my concern as opposed to 75…. sigh.

So yeah, I am not taking anything personal… I am also not concerning myself with who might take my words or actions personal either. This is all about expecting nothing and suspending optimism for people and things and ideas that are worth it.

 

 

 

Happy New Year: Elucidated Reflections on the past 368 days

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2014 has come and gone.  I am sitting in my room listening to children play some game as they shout at each other in Egyptian and Syrian dialects.  OMG I have succumb to all that is ex-pat living.  This quiet, humdrum passage of time has become the new normal.

Ok, it hasn’t been thaaat quiet

Store clerks in malls call me “madam” out of respect, systems for getting things done are altogether different from what I had in the States.  But this is home… It’s been over a year and yes, I live (not study, not just work) abroad.  This reality was solidified as I went through the course of 2014.

For me, last year was one of those quiet, unassuming years, that brought with it much promise but ended as quietly as it began.  And now, I sit reflecting on all that I learned through it… and what I should hope for/look towards in 2015.

I can’t recall the extent to which I documented things (probably not very well at all) but I traveled quite a bit in 2014, much of it to places I had never been or had any previous connection to: Italy, Cyprus, China (the Mid-west and Western US). So I was thrust, for the first time in a long time, back into the role of foreigner, of tourist.

 

When you live in the Arabian Gulf, foreigner, I think doesn’t really stick as a title. Everyone is foreign (the vast majority) and so we all fit even though we seem like this strange menagerie of colors, tastes and sounds.  Food from the Phillipines, the Indian subcontinent, south east Asia and Ethiopia are all within my fingertips (not to mention the Arab World).  My neighborhood is a noisy, bustling barrio dominated by Arabs and South Asians with sprinklings of Africans (mostly East siders) and East Asians: I hate it and love it all at once.

Being here has made me realize the extent to which I have internalized a sort of Arab cultural mindset, in the way I dress, interact with others and even see the world in a lot of ways (this was a scary realization)…. it’s Egypt that did me in, I think. And it’s easier in many ways to weave in and out of communities as this “new” me. In some ways though, I feel like I’ve confined myself to a system that is not my own, that I didn’t ascribe to previously and that I have subconsciously taken on even though I don’t have to.

 

Yes, 2014 made me realize all of this stuff.  I guess the post title is a misnomer,  because all is not yet elucidated. But, Gazelle, as ever is thinking about next steps.

 

living here as a single, introverted ex-pat is great.  But I would want to have a family life back home or at least somewhere that is not here…. ha ha… and as the fireworks that came with my 30th birthday celebrations (in Cyprus!) should have made clear…. time is ticking…. :-/

For lack of a better term, living here has got to be the ultimate “cockblocker”…

Or could this be the sad truth….???? ha ha …

I’m just not into any of it (the halal kind or otherwise). People tend to fall into certain categories: the ones who come here already married, the ones who meet the person they will marry here but quickly within the first year or so, and the ones who don’t quite make a go at it.  I fall into the last category…haha (there are also different classificaitons of ex-pat men that I have deduced, but that is for another post)… but I’m not mad.

 

Going abroad, it seems always makes me realize how American I am, how proud I am to be American, and how much I love home.  It’s in no ways perfect, but it’s where I grew up and where I have the strongest ties. It’s where my roots are grounded and where my heart is.

2014 Marked the 10th straight year in which I traveled outside the US for month or more:

2004- studied abroad in Morocco and  Spain

2005- studied abroad in Morocco

2006- Research in Spain and short trip to Morocco

2007- Yemen, and where I started this blog

2008- 5 months in the UK

2009- I rounded out the 4th quarter of the Year in Qatar

2010- Still in Qatar

2011- Rounded out the year in Egypt and the holidays in the UK

2012- Still in Egypt and returned to MOrocco for the summer

2013- Moved to the Gulf

2014- Living in the Gulf with short stints in Cyprus, Italy and China

2015….

It’s a lot of experiences that I have tried to pack and unpack (some on this blog some not). It’s pretty anticlimactic, but 10 years and 35 pounds later… I’ve realized that I’m a down-home, All American girl. It’s been wonderful learning about all these beautiful places and people. It’s been rough dealing with harassment, racism, prejudice (both from within and without) but it’s been worth it.

I can’t believe I turned into one of those people… ha ha…

 

It’s not like I know all there is know about anything, really. But I guess that is what I’ve learned the most: there always something new to know, some new place to experience.  All in all, Alhamdullilah for 2014 and Alhamdullilah for 2015, 16, 17…. you get the picture.

What am I Doing Here?

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Needless to say it’s been a long time…

I am currently back in the States and just in time for Thanksgiving, which was a very unexpected blessing.  I totally thought my Thanksgiving 2014 would be surrounded by friends and acquaintances, but I am fortunate enough to spend it with family.

This blog has been getting no love as of late, ever since I moved… ha ha… It’s not that there is nothing to write about, it’s not that there isn’t time.  It’s just that I’m not making the time anymore. Besides, there are far more poignant commentaries out there on Ferguson, Bill Cosby rape allegations, Iggy Azalea, ISIS and the state of the world in general.

In real life, I’ve talked about many of these topics till I’m red in the face (which is saying a lot because  I am rather swarthy). America, life is complicated. I recognize that fact and am bracing for the full-circle realization that that’s just how things roll.

Ok, now this post is sounding super cryptic.  But suffice to say, I feel like I’m on the precipice of major life shifts yet again.  I would rather not talk/write about them till the dust settles and all that is or is not happening makes sense to me.

I turned 30 and although I did not mention it here, it was with much fanfare… Wanting to be 30 in a space that was more “exotic” and uncharted for me, I visited a friend in Cyprus…. it was inspiring and humbling to be in a space that was so unfamiliar to me yet, rich with it’s own idiosyncrasies and histories…. Kind of like when I went to Italy in January (well almost, I still think Florence was the more enthralling of the two trips).

About a month ago, I was on a plan again, this time headed for Shanghai. It has been a while since I’ve been in a country where I spoke zero of the language, no one looked like me and no one spoke English.  It was a throw back to my first time in Morocco, only worse.  But I persevered.  Shanghai is an amazing city and I feel fortunate to have experienced it.  I would never want to live there, but it’s an awesome place for architecture and cuisine no doubt.

And now, after a bit of touring in the US (the midwest and west coast) I am back home: munching on the snacks and other foods of my childhood that the Arab World just doesn’t have and thinking, plotting and reflecting on the past year and my next steps.

I have learned a lot this past year, and am still growing: One is never too old to realize an important truth.

What am I doing here?  GAzelle has no idea.

Lord Help Me, I’ve Been Mr. Darcied- On being amazing (for a black woman)

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I have had it America! (Africa, Asia and whomever else might read this) I’ve Just had it!

Pride and Prejudice is my all-time favorite Jane Austen novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a character Mr. Darcy who falls in love with the protagonist. But he’s richer than her, so he’s conflicted: how can he possibly be in love with someone beneath him?

He professes his love to her in an almost insulting manner. Darcy basically tells her , “I know that I am better than you in every conceivable way, but I love you despite you being beneath me…” Yeah it was real romantic…. NOT.

Really?!! Tell me more!

That scene was almost a watershed moment for me in young, naïve not really exposed to love experiences mind. I thought Darcy was awful and was so happy when the protagonist told him to shove his crappy proposal.

Well, 12 years later as an almost 30 something, I am finally getting better at recognizing when I am being Darcied. The latest offender was the last effing straw… he’s the reason I came up with the term.

It became obvious as my interactions with him made me feel like he was thinking along these lines… Gazelle you are awesome, but I am X race and therefore better than you. You have no right to look at my faults because I am x race and while you are awesome, you are only awesome… for black girl.

Basically, he’s a guy that a woman like me in his community would not necessarily jump at the chance to be with but me… oh yeah he had it in the bag. :-/   I was practically told what I have in my blog title… I’m amazing (that I know). But his actions led me to believe that I was being Darcied big time.

So here are some clues to when you are being Darcied… this could be the case if the person in question:

  1. Gives you weird, backhanded compliments (you’re smart for a blonde, educated for a [insert group name here]
  2. Assumes that since you are a member of a certain group, that you must be super honored/excited/pressed to be their companion
    1. If they consider it an effrontery that you would even think about not staying with them even though they like/low you DESPITE coming from a particular group… no need to look for further signs. YOU ARE BEING DARCIED.
  3. Criticizes people from the group you belong to and then tries to save their rude comment, with a “no offense” or a “but I don’t mean you”
  4. Thinks you are some sort of exception to the rule when it comes to the group you belong to and your manners, education, morals etc.

 

The thing about being Mr. Darcied is that there is nothing wrong with you, the Mr. Darcy just thinks there is and can’t understand why he/she likes you anyway. It’s a Freudian sinkhole.

There are others, but these are the big red flags for me. Gazelle has no time for the Darcies of this world… unless they are reformed, come to his senses type Darcies.

And don’t be fooled, as in the case of the original Darcy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a race or class thing: you can be Darcied for just about anything, (size would be the part three of the big three)… people look down on each other for really stupid reasons. That is what 20 something me is coming away with as I prepare, InshAllah to meet 30 something me.

But yeah for me, it has tended to be a race issue. Somehow people think that because I studied other cultures I somehow do not love my own and want nothing more than to be absorbed into theirs?

That’s what it looks like when people assume I am not proud/happy/content with being black….

 

Ok, this is the end of my rant. no wait, this is the end of my rant:

I am precious, it’s society that’s a piece of shit… that makes so much more sense… words to live by…

One Getting Back on the Writing Horse: Wasim

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I am back on my writing grind… not necessarily on this blog, but in real life.  You see, once upon a time writing, fiction especially was my passion.  Now, I am on a roll again, writing stuff. But it’s funny how something you write a while back feels so alien, so not who you are right now. Take exhibit A… a story I wrote a last year called “Wasim.”  The few people that I let read it (cuz I don’t just share my world like that… ha ha… thought it was good/ok.  I thought it was awkward.  Even after cleaning it up some more,  I still think it’s awkward. But perhaps I should let others be the judge.  I put the first little bit of the story below.

Now, I am plugging away on another project that will probably not find it’s way to Elucidated Perspectives… but Allahu a3lim.  It’s awesome to get to decide the fate of people’s lives… ha ha… at least there is someone’s life I can predict… 😉

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Wasim

Just thinking about his name and I crack that weird smirk.  It’s like my cheeks and my lips are fighting over whether they want to form a smile or a frown, which happened to be my state of mind throughout the entire relationship.  

I had hated him almost instantly.

The things Wasim said and did were chafing, grating and irritating.  Afterall, he was a six foot one, caramel colored, brown haired, glasses wearing wall of condescension, with a window muddied by all the pressures that come as a first generation immigrant child of professors from God knows where.

I liked him, in that elementary school girl way. You know, when you like someone so you act like you don’t, when you taunt and make fun of all the attributes that you secretly adore. I didn’t admit it, not even to myself, but I saw in Wasim the perfection that I had yet to attain.  It was like he was sent to me to help me clean up my act, become a better Muslim, a better person.  And I was sent to him, to get him to loosen up, to let the world see the amazing person that I saw.

But, I didn’t know then that you shouldn’t mistake coincidence for fate.

When I tried to be as conservative as he is, to dress like his mom and sisters, to be quiet and demure, I failed miserably.

The fact is, I wasn’t dainty. I wasn’t modest either: Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child were my idols. I wasn’t even particularly religious (not openly anyway). If faith conflicted with something secular, outside the confines of my home, secular always won–

Ramadan fell during basketball season? Then, I couldn’t possibly be expected to fast. My dance costume consisted of a halter leotard and shingle belt? Oh well, the show must go on. (After all, I was just imbibing a character).

Once, I asked Wasim what he thought of our college’s yearly holiday program.

– I can’t really comment on a program that tells everyone to hail Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Simply put: unIslamic.

Truth be told, any recollection him would be incomplete without mention of that word.  Back when he and I first started talking to him I asked Wasim if “unIslamic” was his favorite word, since it rolled of his tongue so flippantly.  He didn’t understand my sarcasm.

It was clear to me that Wasim’s world was black and white, while mine was grey. Little by little I piled on disappointment in myself for doing something that Wasim did not approve.  But, there was also the greater shame of disappointment in myself for my feelings of disappointment.

We didn’t make sense, not together, but the heart wants what it wants, however illogical. Some parents warn their daughters about the womanizers and heartbreakers who only want “one thing.” Mine, on the other hand, told, me to steer clear of guys like Wasim, boys that would grow up to be men who, as my father always quipped, “wore the religion on their sleeves.”

But it was Wasim’s religious piety was what did me in. He was my young adult rebellion, my attempt to try something outside the prescribed box that society had placed me. There was something almost magical about someone who was so clearly devoted to his faith.

Unlike most others (including some of the supposedly pious brothers from the Muslim Students Association), Wasim didn’t stare at the girls with their assets hanging out. He didn’t so much as step into the cafeteria during Ramadan and he always found an empty classroom to pray. I often mused that he was strong in all the areas that I was weak. If he was a super hero, Wasim would have been Mighty Muslim.

That’s how I rationalized things. Wasim could do no wrong. Slowly but surely he became the idol I built to reflect the kind of person I wanted to be. However, in reality, even flesh and blood Wasim did not match up with the demigod of my subconscious.

In retrospect, I should have realized that he was a young, Muslim, Arab male navigating a post 9-11 America, one that didn’t have all the answers, that couldn’t have all the answers. And so was I (well minus the Arab and male part).

Wasim clung to his religion, to his cookie cutter, square peg square hole understanding of Islam. It gave him purpose, it gave him perspective. Unfortunately, it was the vector through which he saw me. And doubly unfortunately for me, disappointed was a pretty common theme as far as his views on my life choices went. There was an infinite number of times that Wasim would sit in front of me, his bushy eyebrows furrowed in that “what are you saying?” position. Yes, admittedly being rather gallant about my views and their contrast with Wasim’s was my thing.

I needed him to know that his view was not all there is to life.  I had to push back on any supposition that a lifetime with me would mean my silent obedience and deference. If this is what Wasim wanted from me, he was wrong. At the same time, I was determined to stand my ground at home: If my father thought that he would discourage me form being with someone who made a better Muslim, a better person, then he too was mistaken.  

Sometimes, I felt trapped in a false paradigm of conservative vs. liberal and religious vs. secular.  In my mind, so much of life’s questions were qualified by circumstances and the ever-present need to consider as many viewpoints as possible. But this way of thinking made me disaster as a daughter, a failure as a Muslim and clueless as how to do anything about it.

I desperately wanted approval, and I sought it out by trying to be everything to everyone: I was the engineering major with the near-perfect GPA, so my dad would be pleased. I was co-captain of the dance squad so my peers would love and cheer for me as I shook my thang at pep rallies and half-time shows.  I sought after all sorts of random awards because I foolishly thought with each one, Wasim would realize my worth and be proud to call me his (almost) fiance.

When I look back on that time in my life, it becomes so clear how the human experience is an absurd one.  We spend our whole lives stalking and hunting something, believing that once we have it, everything will make sense and we will be happy.  But all that effort does is make us tired.

On the Israel-Palestine Conflict and Always Misunderstood

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I am a bit flustered with being misunderstood.  This is not a political blog, because in general I would rather keep my politics to myself-ish.  This is especially true when it comes to the Palestinian issue.  My heart and prayers go out those suffering and whose only crime was unfortunately being born Palestinian without the resources to immigrate out of Gaza.

With that said, the debates, FB posts, Twitter feeds for me, have a stifling effect.  It’s like if you don’t have anything buy shame on you Israel (which I acknowledge needs to be said, there has got to be a better way to “defend” yourself than to cause the kind of loss of civilian life that has occurred, it just smacks of there being more behind this tactic…but I am digressing).

What I am trying to say is while many people (rightly) feel like they can’t say anything against Israel for fear of being labled an anti-Semite, I submit that there are those who feel like they can’t say anything nuanced on the pro-Palestine side either.  And I am sick of it.

 

Yup, that’s me… but instead of pancakes, my posts are about new commercials

What brought this on.  A Facebook post, like many others that I have seen over the past few.  It referenced an article discussing how news outlets were giving biased news (think more air-time for Israeli side vs. Palestinians, more positive representation for them as well, etc.). It’s all probably true.

But then the person indirectly compared the Gaza coverage to that of the Nigerian school girls and said something to the effect of  300 school girls get kidnapped and there was so much attention around that, but 283 people die on a plane in Malaysia and there is not more coverage of that after filming corpses for two days.

The larger argument, from what I understand is that the media does not cover Muslims in a positive light and makes light of issues that affect Muslims.  Fair enough.

But I (doing something that I rarely do) tried to offer a nuanced slightly counter-argument. I will admit the reference to the school girls offended me…  I can’t say that he suffering of those girls is any less than those of people of Gaza… pain is pain.  To top it off, um for all the attention that this issue received, it  didn’t bring back a single girl. So at the end of the few months of media blitz, the Boko Haram story is back to where it was in the media: largely ignored, just like most conflicts and nuanced portrayals of human suffering in sub-saharan  Africa.  The Palestinian cause on the other hand, will never suffer that fate.  Because, even if it’s lopsided coverage, the issue is out there.  Now, social media and alternative media serve as counterbalances to what mainstream (US) media says about it. Progress?  Hell yes.  Although it doesn’t do much for those being bombed right now.

 

This point went over the heads of the usual suspects.  My friend who posted the commentary of another person, interpreted my rebuttal as focusing on media cycles,  while she was talking about a larger issue… wtf! I am talking about a larger issue.

 

 

And here is where Gazelle gets real.  THERE IS A PROBLEM IN ARAB AND SOUTH ASIAN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES WHEN IT COMES TO GIVING A HOOT ABOUT THE PLIGHT OF MUSLIMS OUTSIDE OF THE ARAB WORLD AND SOUTH ASIA.  This in my experience is especially true for the American Muslim community.  I don’t understand how people can condemn people for not caring or being able to empathize with an issue because it’s not close home, but then turn around and to the same.

 

This episode took me back to graduate school, when I wanted to work on the whole erasure authenticity of Muslims of African Descent thing.  I think about that work more than just from time to time.  But I’m tired. These same tired debates, misunderstandings and being left with feelings of wtf when trying to explain things just make me tired.  Am I that unclear as a writer?

 

Am I that unclear when I speak?

I am having a flashback of a presentation I gave in class to my international classmates and my  Arab Muslim teacher.  It was on why tensions sometimes exist between African-American Muslims and Arab and South Asian Muslims.  I charted the history of Islam in America, highlighted the importance of the Nation of Islam as force for the conversion of the largest number of African-Americans to orthodox Islam, the rise of Arab and South Asian Immigration and these communities setting up organizations that represent Muslims on the national stage. I also talked about 9/11 and how that made this largely socio-economically comfortable (and previously looked at as almost white) community of immigrants among the most persecuted rungs of American society.

An oft-heard phrase about this phenomenon was : Arabs/Muslims are the new blacks…. 😦

 

I explained that tensions come in when some African Americans (including video from a prominent one) feel like they have been ignored, and issues affecting the African-American Muslim community are not addressed by these organizations set up by immigrant Muslims.

My teacher didn’t get it. Of course Muslim issues are things like Palestine and the US War in Iraq. What the heck are black issues? ….

 

Black Issue

That was basically his contribution to the Q&A…. ***** Face Palm****  I am just feeling like that again this evening.  It will get better, but for now, I am done. It is easy to point to the external enemy and say shame on you, but the harder issue of dealing with the tensions and dysfunctionality in your own community.

There is strength in Numbers.

Gazelle has got to pick her battles.

On Being An (African)American vs. being an AFrican-American…

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I was gonna post about the rest of my car exploits, but something else is on the brain, so that will have to wait.

I will start off with saying, I love black people, I really do (cue the racist rest of the sentence)… but I whenever I meet a group of black(American) ex-pats we seem to get into a funk. Namely, a I am gonna complain and look at everything that happens to me here within the racial framework of the US of A. This is problematic on so many levels.

It’s a hard rope to walk, I of all people know that. But imagine my surprise when an African American woman who could pass (really pass) for Arab was trying to school me on the way people in Arab society look at black people…. Um????!!! Okay!

Pardon my indignation, but you do NOT get to try and school me on how Arab societies view black women with clearly African features…

I am frustrated because I know where their frustration is coming from. This blog is all about that: the lusty gaze of men, the women who look at you like you should be cleaning their houses, the children who are afraid of you or run after you chanting racist epithets. I get it. I’ve been through it, I go through it.

And yet, it doesn’t make me closed off to the world. Maybe the African-Americans I am meeting have had the luxury of being in majority black settings up until they came here, But I haven’t. For at least 10 years, I have consistently been THE black person in classes, programs, work etc. And I’ve made friends of other races, friends I can be real with even with racial issues.

But somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten that others haven’t.

That became all the real for me when I was trying to explain what happened to a blonde friend of mine in Egypt. Sexual harassment all day, everyday (from men and women might I add). This experience I think, made her realize what black folk and other minority have gone through in other contexts.

My AA compadres reaction: oh well. It was interesting that one even confessed that she wouldn’t even feel bad for my friend had she been there in Egypt with her. Another woman saw it fit to school me on the male gaze towards white women vs. black women. Yes, white women are part on pedestals all day, everyday. And Yes, black women are more likely to be used as pedestals.

However, I can safely assume that neither woman went through in the US what my friends went through in Egypt. We would have to go back to at least, civil rights era deep south before we saw ish that crazy!

I have written this before, but being in a place where people automatically assume you are culturally depraved and will have sex with any man who wants it from you, is just as bad or worse as being in a place where people assume you are only a maid, or serve only in subservient roles.  Let’s be real: Both POVs involve dehumanizing the person in question.

At any rate, the lack of empathy, was alarming. Bitterness should not make you a cold, unfeeling b*^#$. Then again, it happens all the time. It is hard when  you feel like no one sympathizes with you, when you have no one that understands what you are going through.

And so, I realized the conversation was useless… they didn’t know my friend, and felt that they probably could never really be friends with a white person. So it’s heavy. It’s really hard.

It’s interesting to be an (African)American vs. being an African-American.

Yeah it’s all about differences in perspective

 

I feel like much of their frustration (and some of mine) comes from looking for people who hold views that are similar to yours.  But being the same shade is not the same as being from the same cultural group. People often remark, why can’t we be like the Filipinos or the Latinos, they have their groups and get along well… But We are on the outside of those communities looking inward. Sigh.