“Who do you think you are?
How dare you?
You know what?
Shame on you. SHAME. ON.” Click.
A day after my 25th birthday, I called a relative to address some inappropriate remarks.
I’d been tolerating this person’s backhanded compliments and insensitive “jokes” for years.
Something about seeing Nazis and klansmen on TV really brought things full circle for me.
I hadn’t talked to them in a few months, because of their latest round of remarks about my Latinx friends and my (let’s be honest) super radiant relationship. I was trying to find the right way to explain myself while cushioning their feelings.
Before the call, I decided to take a few laps around the park near my house.
There are like a hundred kids playing soccer and jumping around in the sunlit fountains.
Russians and Puerto Ricans and Yemenis watch their apartment-sized pups sniff each other’s butts.
The coco guys are always around the corner with Dixie cups and sherbet scoopers at the ready.
It’s a good place to go calm down.
My fiancé came along for on-demand hugs and to help me clear up my talking points.
I wanted to communicate our shared feelings clearly without labeling my relative or their choice of words.
My partner is a handsome, goofy, big hearted, absolutely incredible man.
He happens to be Dominican.
I happen to be the palest Lithuanian you’ve ever seen.
I know what you’re thinking…
our babies will be the most beautiful humans to walk this earth!
So after spending an hour power walking around the park, I made the call.
I chose my words carefully.
“These were the things that were said, and this is why I feel the way I feel.
I miss you. I want to talk. I want to clear this up so we can be close again.”
My words were met…
with a peppery combo of emotional abuse:
They called me a crazy, drama-obbsessed, compulsive liar.
They said I was obsessed with the media hype of the bad things (Nazis, KKK, white nationalists) happening “far away that have nothing to do with me.”
They said they were only relaying “other people’s opinions,” a form of looking out for me.
They started portraying themselves as a victim who I had hurt.
They started accusing my partner of somehow forcing me to ignore them for the past few months.
“How dare you?”
“Who do you think you are?”
“Shame on you!”
I felt their claws come out, fiery and malicious.
I’m not a phone hanger-upper.
But if there was any time to do it, it was this.
All my thoughts burned out of my head.
I couldn’t breathe. Tears rushed out of my eyes.
I fell on my knees on the plastic grass of the now dark, empty park.
I was shocked.
I had spent the majority of the last 3 years trying to make my relationship as digestible as possible for this person.
As an interracial couple, we get it.
We know that for some people, us being together might take some getting used to…
again, because everyone is preparing for the day our future gorgeous babies will stun the world.
I reined in my personality. I focused on the family.
I dived into building a well-oiled, profitable business so they would never question my stability, even if I was burning myself out.
Some of the things I did helped me grow up and focus on the important things.
But as soon as that phone call hate-fire left me, I felt how truly small I had made myself.
How in the world was I, outspoken entrepreneur, former punk-band-mohawk-wearing Ieva, tip toeing around racism in my inner circle?
It felt like the most brutal breakup.
And then something clicked.
So much of what they said to me, I had said to myself in little whispers anytime I decided to take a risk.
Taking on a new client – who do you think you are?
Wearing a ridiculous outfit that makes me feel like a badass – how dare you?
Speaking up when I know I’ll be pissing people off – shame on you!
My fear of failure and judgement made this person’s opinions the dominant voice in my head.
It’s one thing when you’re whispering it to yourself, but it’s a whole other experience when someone is physically, vehemently shouting these words at you.
Let me tell you, never again.
That night those phrases came to life and burned the fuck out of my vocabulary.
I love who I love and it’s the most magical thing.
I’ve never been ashamed of it, but I’ll never be quiet about it again.
I have a rainbow of friends with all sorts of backgrounds who inspire me and who spread love and creativity like it’s a virus.
And anyone who wants me to rein in this immense cloud of multicultural love glitter does not have a place in my life.
To my straight white lady friends: we’ve got work to do.
We’ve got to have these conversations. We’ve got to burn this silence out. We have to speak up.
The things that are shocking us now have been happening foreverrr to so many marginalized groups.
As white women, we’ve felt oppression, but we also have so. much. privilege.
If you have anxiety, maybe going to a protest isn’t your best option.
Figure out what lights you up and how you can make a difference.
A few suggestions:
- donate to an anti-racism organization
- call out your relatives for their racist bs and set new boundaries
- play music with someone new
- seek out opportunities to learn more about cultures that are different than yours
- make a new friend who can push the limits of your comfort zone
- share articles about race, gender, and sexuality that are written by people from those communities
- spend money at small businesses owned by POC
- taste food you’ve never tried before from a place you’ve never been to
- go on a date with a nice Dominican
No matter what, go love the hell out of yourselves and each other.