The past year has been hard, friends. For those who don’t know me, I’m GiGi, owner of East Idaho Moms. I was born in Mexico City and my parents emigrated to the US when I was 2. I was raised by immigrant parents and watched my parents and peers experience discrimination regularly. Because my skin tone is lighter than my family members’, and because I lack a Spanish accent, I haven’t often dealt with the same difficulties they have.
This year, all moms have experienced pain and emotional warfare like never before in my lifetime. We have been thrust into arguments over politics and race and medicine. I thought I had assimilated to the United States, given that I have lived almost my entire life here. I thought I fit in well, but my cultural and ethnic differences have been magnified until every detail stood out in ways I haven’t experienced before. I felt like I stood out, different from the only life I have known. I felt like I was suddenly an ambassador for a culture and people that see me as an outsider because I have lived in the United States for so long. I am so tired.
I am finally in a place where I can share a tiny bit of my heart without being overwhelmed by emotion and fatigue.
I am a woman of color, and I am tired.
When racial tensions became justifiably elevated this year, I became a source of information for so many of my friends. Friends who thought my skin was brown enough or hair dark enough to understand and translate the collective Black grief over the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other lives needlessly lost. The truth is that nobody outside of the Black community can understand the pain and suffering that they have endured for centuries. My intent is not to take away from the devastating losses that our Black brothers and sisters face on a daily basis, but rather to share my own experience and perspective as a woman of color.
Last Spring, some of my friends examined their privilege in a series of posts for East Idaho Moms. East Idaho Moms was called out for sharing these writers’ voices in this discussion about privilege. I felt ashamed that I didn’t share my own opinions about privilege as a woman of color. I realize now that I simply didn’t have the emotional energy to process and write about my feelings while I was in the midst of untangling them myself, in the middle of intense racial tensions, police brutality, and a pandemic. While homeschooling, working, and simply trying to exist. When race, ethnicity, and skin color became defining factors in the decision between life or unjust death, I was pushed into a conversation I could not avoid. I felt pain and I stood up. I used my voice as a woman of color and an ally and shed light, but the truth is… I was tired.
It is not my responsibility to explain systemic racism or the deep-seated injustice plaguing law enforcement. I shouldn’t have to define redlining. I am not required to share every piece of my experience as a woman of color in order to educate others, particularly white people. If you have questions, do your research. Google it. Read a book. Don’t just ask me for help. You do not have the right to mine my pain. Your need to know is great, but my need to protect my mental health is greater. Please respect that.
Honestly, it’s not that I don’t want to help, but every time I try to explain a situation just to be met with disbelief or questioning the validity of my claims, I’m reminded that I live a different reality from many people I call friends. I love you, I truly do, but you will never understand my life as an immigrant and a woman of color. You will never truly understand being treated poorly simply based on the amount of melanin in your skin. I don’t fault you for that. The experience isn’t yours to live. But for the love of everything good in the world, do not open up my old wounds by bringing racist ideologies to my door. Do not ask me questions and ask for my opinion only to shut me down and tell me that hasn’t been your experience. Well, duh, of course not.
My feelings and experiences, however, are valid simply because they are mine. Your lived experience does not undermine that. When I tell you I’ve experienced discrimination, hear me. When I tell you I have felt pain, validate it.
Even now, I worry my message will be misunderstood. Though I feel that I’ve been abundantly clear, these matters are so emotionally charged that logic tends to fly out the window. I’ll be as clear as possible for my dear white friends and allies: do your own research, never stop learning and growing, and know that your BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) friends and family members are tired.
We are so, so tired.