“I’m free, white and 21. When you figure out you’re free white and 21, you’ll be alright too.”
-Paul Mooney, comedian/author/activist
As a writer, your ears and eyes take on a bionic nature–you pick up the intentional, the unsaid, and the unheard. You begin to see the world behind the world. That is an admirable thing, I assure you. There is a quote I rolled over, and over again when I heard it, and I mention it in the above box.
When I heard Paul Mooney, yes that Paul Mooney, I fought to understand it. How could a black man as unabashed and proud and American-fluent as Paul Mooney say something that is damn near outlandish even for him! Then, I had to wonder why he said, what he said–and with utter confidence. That’s when I figured it out! This quote means just this:
When you realize you can do anything, you can do anything.
No more, no less. In revealing this quote, Paul Mooney has given us a people of color an ace in the hole! What stops you, is just that–it’s a what, not ever a who. The who is a personification of the what! To be free, white and 21–mean you can do whatever you see white folk doing–if you believe you can. It is the concept of believing you can, the finding the way to be better at the game being played is what systematic oppression never wants you to know. Lena Horne said people aren’t born second class, that has to be taught.
Just like you have to be taught to ride a bike, to be racist, you have to be taught that you are less than, not valued, and you will never succeed. In accepting this lie, you stymie anything which you may aspire to become–you begin to believe what you see, is all there could ever be. In changing mindsets, you must become comfortable with being uncomfortable–challenging the status quo will be your norm! In pushing against the expectations of systematic racism you will encounter both enemies and allies.
Ignore the enemies, but categorize them.
Verify the allies, and watch their motivations.
In shifting your mindset, you must understand it is a process. It will be a process, and you are going to have to be able to withstand what in order to free yourself of the shackles of oppressive expectations. However, when you realize you can do anything, you can do anything. Your color or socioeconomic status doesn’t determine your destiny or limit it–so don’t let any else do the same.
[image from Google]