Thank You, Kelly
I remember being irritated at Kelly. Not big irritated, just enough to make me sigh and refrain from rolling my eyes.
We were at BlogHer – probably 2007 in Chicago. Kelly had just asked, from the audience of a panel discussion about something completely not related to race (in my opinion) why women of color weren’t better represented.
I thought, whatever. Why is she going on about this? It wasn’t something I had considered or ever had to consider, but I already knew Kelly and liked her, so I checked my snark impulse.
When a whole group of women gathered around her after the discussion ended, eager to keep talking, I thought “Hm. What’s up with that?”
I thought it would all blow over. BlogHer was such a cool thing and we were all cool people and certainly none of us were racists, so there were probably no problems to overcome. Right? Right?
Kelly didn’t drop it, though. Fueled by her desire to make the world a better place and most likely encouraged by the feedback she got from that comment, she started writing more about race and justice and What the Hell She Was On About. You can read some of her posts on race here.
And because I liked her, I followed along. Prodded by her thoughtful posts, I began to dig deeper into my own prejudices, of which I have many. I could no longer let my assumptions about race go unchallenged.
Whenever I had a thought that began “Black people [insert stereotype here]…” (rinse and repeat with other races, religions, backgrounds, social classes) I found myself asking “Is that true? How do you know? What kind of evidence do you have? What makes you think that?”
It isn’t comfortable to confront the ugly, ignorant parts of yourself, but it is good to do so. It’s like you walk around wondering why the world smells so bad and you find that you have dog poop on your own shoe. It’s nasty to find and nastier to deal with, but once you clean your shoe, the world is a better place.
I don’t think I ever would have bothered to look at my privilege and prejudice if it weren’t for Kelly. She’s so smart and funny and beautiful that you kind of have to listen to her, annoying as it can be. She’s also brave and dedicated and strong as hell. I’m glad she came into the world 44 years ago today.
Happy Birthday, Kelly. Keep on doing what you do. I’m thankful for it.