Mixed Fragility

I feel like I’ve been hit on the head, but instead of being knocked out, it has woken me up. I’ve been uncomfortable being vocal about the racism I see and have experienced. Yet, I must push through it and not remain silent. You might be wondering why I feel uncomfortable. Well, I’ve finally been able to put it into words for you.

According to Dictionary.com, white fragility means the tendency among members of the dominant white cultural group to have a defensive, wounded, angry, or dismissive response to evidence of racism. This term is still new to me, but it is dead on.The more vocal I become about racism, the more I see this white fragility in some of the people I know in real life and those online who I only know on the surface.

Yet, I am struggling with what I call my own mixed fragility. I made up this term because it seems to fit my situation. This mixed fragility is my own tendency to be defensive, wounded, angry, or dismissive of the black community due to my own self-hate of not wanting to be associated with all that it means to be black in this country because it would cut me off from being accepted in the white community.

Whew. It was extremely difficult to not only acknowledge this but put it into words.

I’m sure a number of white friends who actually KNOW me are wondering why I have all this anger lately, and being so vocal about being black when I’ve never uttered a word of authentic support about the black community in the past. And you know what? I feel sick about it.

Let me share MY history of growing up in Macon, GA. I come from an educated family on my mother’s side where both grandparents were college graduates. My parents were married for 9 1/2 years before they divorced. Both are college graduates with master’s degrees and my mother has two Ph.D.’s. I was raised Catholic. I was often the only black person in my classes at St. Joseph’s Catholic School until I got older, then I was one of three. My mother and I were often the only black people to attend St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. I took ballet. I was heavily involved in community theatre where again I was often the only black person in the cast.

I did not have a lot of black influence growing up outside of my family. When the black kids I would meet while at summer camps would tease me for acting “too white” and for being a “sellout,” you can bet I felt anger and resentment. I wasn’t trying to be anything other than myself during those supremely awkward years. My mixed fragility would think why are these black people making fun of me for doing what I enjoy doing, and reading Anne of Green Gables, and for being naturally dramatic? The constant “you talk white” comments that plague me to this day hurt. I was immediately judged, so I judged back. Both parties were wrong.

I would feel such hostility by certain black kids (not all) in high school and the few I encountered in college in upstate NY. Those who went to Mount de Sales Academy should know of the people I’m referencing. Back then I would often think, “aren’t we at the same private Catholic high school?”

I was the only black cheerleader at The College of Saint Rose in my sophomore year. I would hear some of the black kids jeering at me from the benches saying, “quit acting white” and “cheerleading is for white girls.” I heard those comments at every blasted basketball game for that season and refused to be on the team the next year because it was so hurtful. I can only paste a smile on my face for so long.

The constant feeling of ‘you’re not one of us’ has followed me like a dark shadow. How can I love myself when those who look like me reject me? What’s wrong with being different, quirky, and extra? Why should I have to talk and dress a certain way to be accepted when that’s not how I grew up?

So, I naturally gravitated to the white community. I’ve always heard from a lot of white friends and acquaintances over the years that they don’t see my color. I honestly thought that was a good thing because in my warped mind I thought “good, they see me as white like them.”  I would often feel so accepted until I wasn’t invited to some birthday parties or sleepovers because their parents didn’t allow blacks in their homes. A guy who had been my dance partner in multiple musicals at Macon Little Theatre wasn’t allowed to go to prom with me because his parents said, “it’s one thing to be on stage with a n***er, but quite another to be seen out in public with one.” I’ve been followed in stores like Old Navy and Pier One because I must appear threatening with a damn fascinator in my hair or a purse that matches my shoes.

As an adult, I still do not have a lot of black friends. I have met a lot of black people over the years and within the cancer community, but I only have two who I consider real friends. One is male and one is female. Why? I’m still made fun of for not knowing about certain things that are staples within the black community like trap music for instance. I had to look it up and still don’t quite get it. I didn’t grow up with it.

Once tRump conned his way into the White House, I really started to feel the effects of his bigotry instantly. He and his cronies have given a green light to come out from the shadows and be open with their hate for blacks, POC and LGBTQ. I started to feel more hostility from whites than from blacks now. You can read my original post from last summer It’s a Troubling World about the white woman with her son who was misbehaving pointing at me saying, “See this black woman? If you don’t be quiet, she will ram her cart into you.” I remember when I posted this on my social media, I had so many white friends saying I should’ve said this and that to her. They just couldn’t understand why I remained quiet. Well, let me cue in that unhinged racist Amy Cooper and how she falsely escalated and accused the black bird watcher Christian Cooper of attacking her. I hope now my white friends will understand that’s why I kept quiet last year. I knew if I had said anything, that white woman could’ve called the police and falsely say I was threatening her and her kid. Only one person would’ve ended up in handcuffs or dead…me. The other white woman behind me in line witnessed the entire thing and said nothing. Nothing.

Again, some of my white friends told me they would’ve said something, or they couldn’t understand why I was so upset. I wonder…would they really have said something? Would they really have stood up for me or even a black stranger? Would they have gotten out of their comfort zone for another? Also, how did they not see by that white woman telling her son I would cause him harm, that little boy will start to associate any black or brown person as someone who could hurt him. That’s how one becomes a racist. The seeds are planted early when you’re young and impressionable.

Though I’m still working through my mixed fragility, I am keenly aware of how I’m not protected due to the color of my skin. I’ve been reading and researching to better understand my own black ancestry. I’m raising my voice not to be misconstrued as an “angry black woman,” but to speak out against what’s right and wrong. Racism is wrong. Period.

We need white voices to speak up when these situations occur. You can’t change a racist, but you can hopefully change an outcome with action. Here are two articles for my white friends to see how they can help fight racial injustice. 

https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies?fbclid=IwAR2pS0j7E4NdA8Z8Hr6OFNiwqsDtHFjzFdQxRMaoravHZP4mA8WYV-rPoFU

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

21 thoughts on “Mixed Fragility

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing this! I know it was hard to write. I can feel your struggle. We all need to share our situations more. I appreciate you & continue your voice. You help me raise my voice too! Much love

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  2. Using your pen to discuss and educate people is the first small step in this movement, I am not naive to think that that is enough but it is definitely a start and I thank you for your wonderful, and eloquent words and the two articles are so informative.

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  3. Wow! This post is profound. Thank you for writing it. This past month has probably been one of the most challenging times in my husband and my 15 year biracial marriage, with everything that is going on and the community in which we live and work in Chicago. Your insight into ‘Mixed Fragility’ has given me a new way of looking at where my husband is coming from and I truly appreciate it. Sending gentle hugs, JoAnn

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    1. Hi JoAnn! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my piece. It was a struggle and deeply painful to write. I read it to my mother before publishing. She was so worried I would get a backlash or something. I’ve developed tough skin over the years. I’m glad my insight could help you. Gentle hugs, Megsie

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  4. I’m sorry to hear of some of your experiences. It’s not easy to share individual experiences, especially when they don’t fit the current box. I don’t understand how people can judge anyone for something they can’t control, like skin color. (This was a Twitter comment to this point). Thank you for sharing this. I love the idea of “mixed fragility”. My daughter had a friend with a similar experience and I really think where in the country one is raised makes a huge difference. To be honest, the real “fragility” I feel is when someone who doesn’t know me accuses me of something untrue. There aren’t simply 2 types of people in the world and a million variables to how our experiences shape us. I’ll definitely be reading more of your posts to help me understand your individual story 🙂

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    1. Hi Roanne! I apologize for the delay in responding here but remember you on Twitter. All I can say is it’s strange and uncomfortable being in my skin. To this day, the bulk of my friends are white but eclectic, so our connection is on a deeper level. Thanks again for taking the time to read this piece. I’m trying to decide what to share next!

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  5. Meg, with appreciation for the opportunity you’re taking to educate people how racism truly feels. I often wonder since the anti Semitic commentary I’ve been hammered by my whole life starting with my mom telling me to hide the Star of David in my shirt as we made our way through the Carolinas and the mouth of the south ahead from New York City to Miami Beach. Not able to understand until later in my life, I only knew people HATED Jews, and I didn’t know why. It never occurred to me that because I “don’t look like a Jew” and now I don’t “look like I have cancer,” are so tightly connected in my heart. I refuse to NOT speak up on the spot or otherwise, for myself and for others in racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic groups and now add health to the list including mental health. It’s not okay to have to harbor self loathing for what people cannot see. Just tonight, my husband said I should try not looking so great so people would get how sick I am. I told him exactly what you likely think I did only a bit saltier. Then I left to think about it. It was like my mom telling me to stash the religious symbol. My dad, luckily didn’t ask anyone to be anything but who they are and I now struggle with the message that I can be anything I want, because I can’t anymore, I just look like I’m sponging off the system and retired early ‘cause I was tired of working and want to sponge off my husband. No ideas could be more incorrect. So true, we are forever probably relegated to another side of a screen and not “real” friends. But all my so called real friends left five plus years ago, few remaining in my life and barely so. My friends although we’ve not met in person support me in ways I am more than grateful for because they don’t see me colored by my cancer. And no one cares if I am a Jew either. I’m just me. Dying. In pain. Mainly alone these days and I have felt the relegation of being a Jewish woman scratching at the walls of the tech industry until it spit me out unclean and broken.

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    1. You have a friend in me, Ilene. The majority of my close friends are online as well. Like you, I can form a bond without ever having to meet the person. I hate what cancer has done to so many of us, especially stage IV friends. As far as race, I still struggle with embracing it because I do not fit the norm. I’m alone. No human children. It’s not how I thought my life would end up. I don’t belong anywhere. It’s only my passion for advocacy, writing, and certain friends that keep me here, along with my mother and beloved cat. Gentle hugs, my friend.

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