by Emily R.
Most of us want to be good people. We want to be nice. We want to say the right things and have people like and love us. Sure, there are outliers. There are people that seem to thrive on cruelty. There are others that really just don’t seem to care what others think or feel. But I think it’s safe to say that those are the exception to the rule.
Often, part of thinking about ourselves as the nice and good people that we want to be means not looking at the parts of ourselves that are not so savory. These parts may be saying hurtful things in the heat of anger. They may be the tendency to disappear when a friend is going through a tough time because we don’t know what to say. And if you’re a white person in America, there’s probably a little voice that is a white supremacist.
WHAT? LOL. That couldn’t possibly be you. You’re good! You’re nice! You believe in equality! You marched! Trust me, it’s there. To quote the Church Lady, you think you’re just a *leetle* bit superior. Because it’s there doesn’t make you a bad person. Your entire life, you’ve been told that you’re the gold standard. Your name (even if it’s creatively spelled) is the standard against which all other names are measured. You’re an American, not an African-American, not a Chinese-American, not a [dash] American. You’re the people on Friends and Seinfeld. Your people lead the charge against aliens and terrorists and asteroids. Hell, your people will save the other poor people that can’t save themselves! If you want a role model from any walk of life, there’s a person or multiple people to look up to and maybe mentor you (and that person is the first [dash] American to be that role model).
Well … shoot. Now what?
You need to find that voice that tells you that you’re superior for no reason other than the circumstances of your birth and consciously silence it. You may have some things which are just a little superior, but it’s not because of the amount of melanin in your skin. They’re probably things that you devoted hours to learning and mastering - like quilting or computer programming or cooking delicious food. And you deserve to pat yourself on the back for that superiority. You earned it.
But any time you have that feeling of superiority, and you didn’t work to earn it, ask yourself why you feel that way. If you see a name that looks or sounds “made up,” remind yourself that all names are “made up,” including your own. That name belongs to a person who is truly your equal (though you still may be a better quilter). Take the time to learn that African American Vernacular English is an English dialect, not “poor grammar” or “uneducated,” and truly listen to the speaker’s thoughts or you just might miss something important.
In short, hold that unsavory part of yourself up to the light and snuff it out. It’s going to take as much or more work than learning to quilt, but it’s worth the effort. It’ll make you a better person.