…Except it’s not awkward – it’s uncomfortably eye-opening.
It’s amazing how us humans can take years to build up our own courage to be vulnerable or kind with the world, and yet we can tear someone else’s down in a matter of seconds.
I recently took a trip to Lake George in Upstate New York with some of my friends for 4th of July weekend, and while I see them as simply that, my regular friends, the rest of the community did not.
I, myself, am a woman who has white skin, and yes, the majority of my friends don’t. That factor, however, has never impacted my relationship with them, and we have deemed it irrelevant. We have a lot of similarities, whether it be the fact that I live and breathe hip-hop culture the same way some of them do, that we share the same opinion on a topic, or that our personalities just somehow click.
Many of my friends happen to be of West Indian descent, and while I may not understand their family’s cultures, I do enjoy learning more. They definitely know how to have fun, and include others in it!
So as my 11 other friends and I arrived Upstate for what we thought would be a new experience, it shortly turned into an uncomfortable one, as they were greeted with ignorant comments from staff members at the Depe Dene Resort, side eyes and stares from tourists and vacation-goers, and some overall cold isolation.
As one of my friends approached the front desk to ask for an iron, which she planned to use on a blouse, the staff member asked if it was for one of the other girls’ hair, who happens to be black. Later, two of my guy friends were asking other questions at the front desk, when they were randomly offered a basketball to play with, despite the resort having two tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a ping-pong table.
My group of friends were offended, but decided to take the high road and brush the comments off to make the best of the trip. It wasn’t until our grill was broken that I truly saw how uncomfortable things must be for them.
When some of the group went to inform the staff that our grill wasn’t working and were assured that someone would be coming to fix it shortly, they watched as the man in charge of the task drove to nearly every other cabin. It was pretty clear he was avoiding coming to ours, which led to them asking me, the only white person in the group, to inform the employees again. Unfortunately for my positive faith in society, the man came very shortly after me asking again, and even gave us a brand new grill to use.
Our night of watching the fireworks for the 4th of July didn’t go peacefully either, as some of the girls participated in a limbo contest and were labeled “the pretty black girls.”
While no one “caused a scene” or “went off” after facing the ignorance throughout the weekend, it did result in a very early check-out to escape the town as quickly as possible, and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth…including mine.
As the greatest Nasir Jones once said, “They fear what they don’t understand, hate what they can’t conquer/Guess it’s just the theory of man.”
It’s a common stereotype that white people tend to accuse black people of exaggerating, or believe they express too much paranoia in certain scenarios. As the only white girl in a group of minorities in many cases, I can tell you right here and right now that there is no exaggeration. It’s an absolute outrage when my friends have to approach me and ask me to accomplish something they believe they can’t, just because my skin is white and theirs is black.
All it takes is one ignorant comment for someone to lose all faith in a person, community, or group of particular people, and this could easily be the case for my friends. No one understands that until they experience it or even witness it themselves.
Although I am not living in some delusional world where every individual is built the same, I am all for a change in general society that would make us all colorblind. Yes, we should be able to embrace what separates us from others to make us unique, but it should not be criticized to be worse than or praised to be better than another culture or personality.
Lake George isn’t the only place in America, or even the world, that treats minorities this ignorantly, and I am not naive to that. I just hope that this experience can inspire those in other communities to think about their words, actions, and judgments when approaching people of different cultures, areas, or personalities.
It’s never been too comfortable to be a minority in this country, but it isn’t too comforting to watch them suffer as a friend either.
We’re long overdue for a change.
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