You will often hear me say that I am a “proud Army Brat!” Often. And it is true. My father served, in one capacity or another, up until the time of his death. I was, therefore, raised around the world and exposed to many different cultures and people. My siblings and I were taught to be accepting and inclusive of everyone. The result is that even today, it is easy for me to accept differences and not have biases towards those who are different from me. Sounds like the ideal way to raise children who have a cultural awareness, right? Except it wasn’t.
While living abroad and being exposed to the cultures of our host country or to those of my friends and classmates from other countries, I was taught or learned very little of my OWN culture. It wasn’t until the movie Roots by Alex Haley, came out, that my family had discussions with us about our roots. That was in the 70’s. I graduated from high school in the 80’s. So, I spent my entire childhood living with the “we are all the same” lie.
My parents are black and were raised in the segregated south, Virginia, so they KNOW everyone is not equal. Yet, that was the drivel that I heard and was fed on my beloved military bases and from my parents. In their defense, I believe that this was their way of encouraging and teaching us that we are just as good as anyone else and could accomplish anything we worked hard to accomplish. Unfortunately, that too is a lie.
In the United States, black and brown people are not and will never be “equal” until America deals openly with it’s ugly past and most importantly, until white America accepts their part in this history: the truths that are left out of our school books, in internet searches, etc..
These truths are hard for white America to accept and acknowledge and it is common to hear some saying things like “I don’t see color,” or “Why are you holding that against me, that was in the past,” or even the dreaded, “I am a victim of racism, too.”
In coming weeks, we will explore each of these and hopefully, open a dialogue that dispels these mistruths and teaches a better way to engage with people of color (POC).
Zanetta Holley is a former Special Assistant to the Inspector General and current Special Assistant for Investigations with a law enforcement agency in D.C. Prior to that, Ms. Holley worked on the Hill advocating for funding for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. She attended Jackson State University, a historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Jackson, MS. Ms. Holley works with several groups advocating for social justice and against racism and oppression. She is also CBE-Voices of Color’s Vice President for Allied Partnerships and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org