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Decolonizing the mind: perspective on race in America

Through the eyes of a reluctant, biracial millennial


Decolonizing the mind: Decolonization, therefore, is not merely (or indeed primarily) an event that took place when and where formal colonial rule came to an end, but rather a process of challenging the cultural and epistemic legacies of colonialism in broader fields of history, aesthetics and culture. [Echoes]

The following is expanded upon a note I wrote to my professional colleagues in the days following the murder of George Floyd. I appreciate their thoughtful and empathetic reception.

I’d like to share something with you all, my team. This is important to me because as a remote company, it’s easy to let vital conversation go to the wayside for myriad reasons — not wanting to stir the pot, feeling uncertainty, not wanting to be singled out, nervous about crossing that unwritten Slack line, never enough time in Zoom calls to really get into how you are, etc.

But today, was different [1 June 2020]. We’re in a strange time and in my truth, coming together is always preferred to remaining apart. I’m not the speaker for all whom are black. I am biracial and grew up in a household that didn’t discuss race too specifically — I see now that this was a strategy of protection from my parents — out of sight out of mind. They had a hard enough time as it was being an interracial couple, why push that onto me without consent? Feel free to read more of that here.

Me with my parents in the early 90s in Turkey

Me and my parents in Pamukkale, Turkey circa early ‘90s

shame, confusion, rebellion, aversion

It’s taken me years to learn the terms, ideas and truisms that are: micro aggressions, structural racism, white privilege, driving while black, rates of infertility & mortality in black women, decolonizing the mind, and even DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion]. It’s taken me years to unhook the deep shame and confusion that came from not choosing a side [black or white]. This only ever stemmed from the perception of others onto me, in that I had to make a choice. To the chagrin of my mom, who felt outcasted because inevitably, people would see me as black only. Thus saying, she not only had nothing to do with it, but almost, didn’t count in my makeup. I chose to skip it all, often answering other on all sorts of forms that only gave me one choice and instead, identified as a female athlete. Raceless. Obama came on the scene when I was eighteen and I thought, surely this is it! He will help carve out space for us mixed kids! Nope, he’s solely black too. Great.

I’m privileged, let’s be real. I’m American, I grew up in a two parent home, I had money to spare, I could focus solely on my studies, I had privacy, I had my own car at 16 and I’m light skinned. Colorism within communities of color is just as real and just as piercingly painful as being called monkey by someone that looks nothing like you. Over time, I’ve chosen to let most things slide off my back, work to understand where a person came from and try to believe that they’re doing the best with what they know. But maybe, I’ve been too generous. But today, I am triggered, exhausted and not okay. My dad is a retired cop — was the first black candidate for every rank up to Captain in his department in Hoboken, NJ. What a swell of pride I’d always felt. The interweaving of brothers in arms and race in my life is now, confusing. There is a clear, vast, abyss in conversation when those around me speak of cops laced with vitriol on their tongues; I feel that hey! my dads a good cop will surely fall on deaf ears. And so, I say nothing and feel ashamed.

Today is now June 3 and I hear sirens from my open window in sunny and tree filled New York. Otherwise peaceful protests around the country have devolved into violent looting, rioting and mayhem. The small percentage that make up the violent ones are usurping the entire purpose of protest; I am not surprised. Curfews [LOL great idea guys] are broken in nearly every city and cops are being murdered as well, regardless of race, but rather only if they have that blue stripe. As usual, the perception is if you’re about cops then you’re the problem OR fuck cops, fuck racism, annihilate the system. I admit that for years, I have been complicit in my silence too because, well, I don’t want to deal with that previous sentence.

I’ve deleted social media from my phone and hear the news second hand. I won’t be donating funds anywhere and that is my choice [I never believe that money truly goes where it’s said to anyway]. But I will work to discontinue my own complicity — from speaking more on this topic with the people in my life [grassroots] to spending more time actually lending an educated vote to chiming up about micro-agressions as they arise.

Dad as motorcycle Sergeant in around 1980 | My Mom pinning my dad as he was promoted to Police Captain in 1992

What do I believe in then?

  • Grassroots efforts [engaging in hard conversation with your friends/peers/colleagues/family like I did with Anderson Street]

  • Research [and good luck finding credible sources] everything from the journeys of minority diasporas, globally, to reviewing the backgrounds [not just current political stances] of myriad candidates

  • Voting [albeit I’m finding myself much more libertarian these days — can’t even believe I have a degree in government at this point]

  • Reformation of nearly all institutions in this country, but since we’re being specific: standardizing police training, with the inclusion of bias for example, to deescalating the militarization of what is now seen as a police state along with policy clarity and strong enforcement of those policies [ie. ways of apprehending someone that is being arrested or qualified immunity]

  • Advocacy, firstly for the self and then for those that you feel aligned with and for

  • Rinse, review, repeat

privilege, hurt, uncertain, exhausted, trigger, shame

4 graphs depicting various details about being killed while black in america

It’s appreciated I’m sure, that you may have asked those in your life that are of color — what you can do, how you can help, how you feel, what you’ve learnt and so on. Conversations can and must be happening, but please reconsider those conversations centering around you. Be gentle with those around you that are of color right now [and really, always] —

  • Consider doing your own research and not telling me or your minority friend about said research, but just adjusting your POV and mindset on your own

  • Understand who makes up the community that you live in & vote in those formerly pesky local elections, but now, keep those marginalized friends of yours in mind. Know who’s around you and who you can effect

  • Shop small businesses [or etsy] and maybe learn who the owners are

  • Donate money to your own community as there are most certainly marginalization there too

  • Reach out to the POCs [persons of color] in your life, not just black, and consider deepening your conversations

  • Reminder! Any one person is not the composite of everyone in their race bucket

  • Consider culling the trendy posts, overdoing it on the allyship and empathizing. Just, be the change, it doesn’t need to be avowed constantly

  • Reminder! Everyone has an opinion and someone will always say you’re not doing enough while simultaneously someone else will internally praise you for doing what you’ve done — keep up your own work at your pace

Research starters because maybe, you’re still stuck in the quagmire

Don’t be better for everyone else, be better for you and this will emanate from you. It will permeate relationships you’re in and pervade outward. The best, imo, change is grassroots driven. Do better. Vote better. Listen better. Just, be better.


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