Monday, October 04, 2010

subtle racism hurts

Racism is a Weapon

So many times we think of racism as the "out loud and in your face" kind of thing. For me, I find the most painful form of racism is the subtle, sometimes intentional or clueless comments directed toward me. The bottom line is that racism is racism, no matter how it is served up.

I chose to re-purpose a vintage tablecloth I found in the thrift store. Its sweet flowers and simple design reminded me that the subtle kind of racism is served at the table with a smile and most times you don't see it coming. And maybe that is why it hurts so much.


It’s the subtle comments, like a thousand little wounds, that can leave me bleeding to death. If I don't recognize it for what it is and get some kind of validation and support, I fear it could lead to health issues. That is what I read in a report; it stated, “Women of color often suffer more from health and mental heath issues when subjected to subtle racism in the workplace."

The center of the artwork is dedicated to protection and the Warrior Spirit it takes to keep moving through the generational racism that continues today. Outside of that section are weapons I chose to embroider in traditional Redwork technique. The quotes are actually statements that people have said to me over the years. I am sorry to say that some of them are oldies that keep on repeating. " Really, I dont see color, I'm color blind." "Do you speak Mexican?" "One of my best friends is Latina." "Where were your parents born?" "You Latinas are so sexy and can really dance." " Do you make tortillas?" " You speak English so well." And many others.

Sometimes when these things are said I take a deep breath, try to control the look of shock on my face, all the while thinking, “Oh, No! She did not just say that!” and then I assess the situation and the inevitable ripple effect. Who might get it next if I don’t speak up now? Will I just let this one slide because I am so tired of it all? When I can muster up the wherewithal, I take the teachable moment and have a dialogue with the commenter. Once again assuming the role of educator with my unassuming perpetrator. Other times I take the hit and just look for a place to nurse my wounds with some kind of dignity.

The border is a patchwork of bright "happy" vintage reproduction prints, symbolizing the patched possibilities. I do this kind of work because there were those that came before me that walked the fire. Now it’s my turn, and one day I pray that my grandson won't have to hear these words spoken to him. On the patchwork border are facts about racism. It has a history. It is taught and learned. Racism kills the human Spirit. My warrior cries are also on the border. Cries to dismantle systemic and institutional injustice, to promote dignity and respect and to embrace human differences. And my signature on this work reads, "this was created by a wise Latina". Gracias

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