(Ok, so posting that I took a pledge on social media, LinkedIn, and telling you here does feel a bit icky and performative. But what is the alternative? Stay silent?)
Before 2020, I had contemplated sharing my personal stories of racist, sexist, and just plain ego-driven meanness in the apparel industry. But I kept shrinking away from it.
Why? Because although I am not white, I have built-in privileges in my name, Ludmila, and my German language and citizenship, keys that have opened doors for me throughout my life.
I didn’t have to do anything to earn those privileges. Born and raised in Germany, my mom picked a Russian name and VOILA! I couldn’t easily be put into a box.
My privilege worked well for me in getting job interviews. Of course, once I showed up looking like I do, Pakistani & Colombian, I often hoped the confusion would last long enough for the interviewer to hire me before closing the cognitive dissonance between who they thought I would be and who I actually was, a person of color. And many times, it did.
I never questioned my intentions nor harbored any guilt for this privilege. Why would I rock the boat? It was safer to swim along, blend in, and not to make any noise.
On a much more personal level, I think it’s important to share that my daughter is mixed: African American, Pakistani and Columbian. The average person who may not know her rich ancestral background could easily dismiss her, judge, or define her by nothing more than her beautiful mocha skin tone, as a mother, that both saddens and angers me.
She asked me back in February while crying: “Why do they hate us so much?”
I am not going to share how I answered this question. I will share, however, that I was immediately alarmed by the use of “they.”
I did everything possible, within my limited power as a parent, to shape my daughter’s view of the world she lives in as inclusive and full of acceptance.
I grew up with a German (white) step-family who loved me dearly and honestly. I wanted to provide the same for my daughter. I didn’t want her to become full of hate and bitter towards a “they.”
But here we are in 2020, having this conversation about “they.”
I laugh at my own naivete. I didn’t even know what a “Karen” was until a couple of weeks ago.
But here I am. In trying to help my daughter navigate the ugliness of race, I find myself having to navigate these murky waters within myself.
Yes, my veil served me well through the years, but what about my child? I ask, is it fair that in 2020, I still have to have these conversations, and other parents' children are being killed, while others continue to live in their oblivion? It’s not.
I ask, in my desire to hide and benefit from my ability to pass as an “other,” did I inadvertently become complicit in creating this world she’s facing now as a young adult? Did I focus too much of my energy on creating a fantasy world for my daughter rather than meet the real world with her and create a change in it?
And what do I do now?
Human rights issues are important to me, and I stand by and with #blacklivesmatter.
I cannot continue to hide behind my privilege and never hold myself accountable for the ways in which I have been in silent agreement with systemic racism.
I am exploring ways in which I can be a part of the solution. For right now, I don’t know how or what that solution will be but my hope is, in my desire to heal and to make this world better for everyone, regardless of sex, race, or religion, that many more people, like myself, will remove the gag and take a stand.
I am interested in hearing your stories and your experiences on racism, privileges, and becoming an ally to black people everywhere. Please reach out and share them with me.