Stop! Rise above it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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My first real encounter with racism/racial profiling was in the course of my post-graduate studies.

In the city I lived and schooled, the racialized minorities were so few that we all knew almost one another, and the most of us would acknowledge each other with a smile and a “hi” whenever we walked past each other.

Yes, the people in the neighborhood were generally nice. But this did not mean racism did not exist. It did exist.

It was not so much as dramatic as the random popping-off of blacks by cops in the United States. It was not in the things said or actually done. It was in the little subtle things. Things so subtle… that you almost thought it was in your head. Except that it wasn’t. If you gave it a little more time, observed similar relations with others, you’d soon enough learn how ‘different’ you were.

Like the store attendant who followed you around in the store, with a ‘smile’, and an intermittent offer to help… without similar ‘attention’ given to non-black co-customers.

Or in being the only black face in class, taking a seat and realizing all the seats around you were left empty.

Or the unhidden surprised look you received from ‘neighbours’, when your access card open the door, of a quasi-expensive apartment building, in a posh neighborhood. The look which spoke volumes of “surely, you cannot be living here. Or can you??

It was in the silent impatience with which the bus driver counted your change, and ‘waited’ for you to take your seat. And if you were seconds away from the bus, running after it, you just might be "too dark" to be seen.

Like I said… it was subtle, and in the little things. Almost like there was an invisible memo to press your button. You knew it was there… but you could not lay your hands exactly on what it was.

How exactly do you react to something that exists… but does not really exist? How do you ‘react’… without appearing to be acting solely on conjecture and as a result of a very fertile imagination??

These were the questions I asked a lady I had come to regard her as my guardian angel. She helped affirm my sanity in letting me know it was not all in my head. She shared her stories, as well as stories of others. Racism and Racial Profiling was real. It was just not the overt type that the laws could readily deal with, or one could easily sustain some type of complaint against.

“Rise above it”, she said. I did not understand.

“So long as it is not direct and actual, all it will do is press your buttons. Irk you. And when you react… Boom! You fit right into the stereotype of “angry/aggressive black female". So rise above it”.

But would this not mean denial of a fact, that I know, although I could barely prove?

“That’s the thing”, she responded. “You can’t prove it. But you just know. That the racist is cautious enough to not let their racism be obvious means they fear you. You are already in the position of power… above it. So just rise, remembering that the subtle actions are beneath you and nothing other than mere distractions”.

This stood against everything my (naturally) activist nature stood for. What?? Pretend I had not been wronged?

It took me a while to totally get her point. But with time, I gained clarity.

You see… if you walked into a store to get goods, and let yourself be distracted by the ‘kind’ effort of the store attendant following you around, you will eventually be forced to leave the store without your goods, and (most likely) with a sour mood.

Can you object to the annoying behavior?


But from a position of having risen above it, rather than as a mere reaction. The latter bears the risk of you being unnecessarily emotional, thus having the tables turned, and making you out to be the bad person. The former however highlights the issue at hand dispassionately, and enables an intellectually appropriate response to the ‘non-existent’ act of racism.

In this case, calmly appreciate the attendant’s help (with a smile even), and point out that just like the other customers in the store, you are capable of shopping on your own, and would draw their attention the moment you required help.

(See? You made your point without fitting into the “aggressive” persona)

The beauty of the “rise above it” principle is that it could be applied in almost every facet of life, and not just racism.

You see, a bulk of the daily ‘drama’ we allow ourselves get embroiled with stem from mere distractions which should have been allowed to die as what they are: distractions. But we allow our buttons be pressed. And adorn ourselves with the persona of righteous anger, rising to the bait, and losing focus of the more important things that matter.

We can choose to “rise over it’ in all our dealings. At work. At the Gym. With family. Or even on Social Media.

Especially on Social Media.

I have e-met a couple of awesome people on Social Media that I genuinely admire, who share really inspiring and tremendous messages. But I also cringe in watching them get distracted by petty squabbles and jumping right into fights they had no business acknowledging its provocateur.

Not every “shade” or “sub” deserves a response. Remember that the bulk of it is white noise. What do you do with white noise? Shut it out.

Keep your eyes on the things that matter, leave the irrelevant things, and stay focused.

So when you find yourself reaching for your phone to retort, or turning to respond on the spot to your button being pressed by some random (or even familiar) individual… just stop! Ask yourself “is this not white noise”? Then, rise above it.

May we all find the grace to continue to rise.




P.s.: Nothing in this post should be deemed as encouraging any human to be silent in the face of misconduct by duly elected public officials. You cannot ‘rise above’ your civic right to demand and receive responsible governance from the persons you have chosen to serve you. Exercise your right fully.

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  1. You are just amazing.... Lovely write up

  2. Smiles....
    O mine!
    You got me smiling on the "ps".
    You jes so wonderful & hv d perfect words for ur viewers.
    More wisdom I pray in thee love.

    1. Lol!! Happy I made you smile. Thank you... so much!

  3. Smiles....
    O mine!
    You got me smiling on the "ps".
    You jes so wonderful & hv d perfect words for ur viewers.
    More wisdom I pray in thee love.

  4. Developing a thick skin is actually a skill that needs to be mastered in all ramifications of our life. Too many side distractions trying to bring out the demon in us but we have to 'rise above it'.