By Alex. S
I am the host of a new podcast called “Hopelessly Tatiana”, and I end each episode by saying, “Consider this: If you want to learn, read. If you want to reflect, write. If you want to change, listen”. It seems like a random, meaningless grouping of ideas but it’s not. I honestly spent quite a bit of time trying to decide exactly what I would say at the end of each episode and that was what I came up with. The statement was chosen with intent because of the message I hope to send to the world.
As a black woman, I have had to learn to live in a world that sees me first as “an angry black woman”, then as a “Jezebel” before ever bothering to see me as I am. I am often accused of being sarcastic when I’m being kind, or fake when I’m being genuine. Other women have seen me as a threat to the men they like, despite the truth of my being more attracted to them than their male partners. It has been a life of constantly having to put my feelings second so that I can first identify how others view me. Not because I want to please anyone – solely to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings. It has been an exhausting existence. But one thing I am grateful to have learned is that the world is not now, nor has it ever been, one-sided. And that the more we surround ourselves with people who see the world our way, the more we become the thing we claim to hate. We become closed-minded.
Black and white
I remember the first time I truly realized how people viewed interracial dating. I went to a small private college in the Midwest, in the US. This was a drastic difference from how I grew up, in a more urban environment in southern Illinois, where there was racism but no one really cared who you dated – or maybe I was just too young and naive to notice then. Anyway, in college, I had a boyfriend who was several years older, and White. He came to see me in a play I was in. He was so sweet. He brought me a bouquet which was undeserved because I had such a small part, and my British accent was atrocious. I thought he was the nicest, most amazing man. Until I felt it.
I felt the stares from people. Now I was used to people staring, but this was different. It felt venomous and it was coming from older white men and women in the community. They looked at us like we were committing some sort of crime and should be ashamed. And all of a sudden I felt it – the shame. I felt shame for being with him. It was as though I was doing something I should not have been. For his part, he continued beaming with pride, but this didn’t assuage this feeling of how “wrong” it all seemed. I thought there was something wrong with me.
That was over a decade ago, but that incident will always stay with me.
Ebb and flow
I haven’t done much dating since coming to China. The truth is it doesn’t feel worth the hassle: it’s the messages from guys asking if they can sleep with me and my friends since I’m bi. Apparently, that’s what being bisexual means to them. Or it’s the feeling of inadequacy from not being the right body shape to be attractive to the people I want. Though I honestly feel the most disheartening thing is when I get messages saying that I’m their fetish or a bucket-list item. Truthfully, being bi hasn’t had a large impact on my experience since coming to China, but being Black and plus size have.
In some of my podcast episodes, I get rather personal with problems I have faced, from mental health to discrimination, though I do tend to focus more on examples from my time before being in China. My dream for my podcast is to promote understanding, give people a sense of perspective, and dispel misconceptions about a range of topics. It has been my experience that something the world could always use more of is perspective. We can all become so attached to our own ideas that we don’t realize we have surrounded ourselves with people that don’t challenge them. And in so doing, we begin to believe our own narratives. We begin to see the world one way, and my goal is to provide a different way in which ideas can be examined.
I want to show that these issues aren’t just ideas to debate about then forget. These topics are more than just trite online arguments. These issues and developments impact real-life people and that we are not alone in our fears and our failures. And most importantly, if we stop and look at any issue from the other person’s perspective, we develop empathy. “So “Consider this: If you want to learn, read. If you want to reflect, write. If you want to change, listen. Thank you for listening.”
Photos: Courtesy of Alex. S, Unsplash
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