Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong by Georgina Lawton
Some books inform, others are read for pleasure, but a few hit home.
“Personal identities are not built in solitude; they are formed through social interaction within our families and communities to help make us who we are.” (p. 30)
Georgina Lawton was raised among white parents and white friends in a white family and in a white suburb, but when coming of age and as a young adult, she found herself having to explore what it means to live in and navigate the world as a Black woman.
While I knew the above statement from decades of living and working in what most people proudly claim as a diverse university town, tears fell as I read the following (on pages 30 to 31):
“Discussing privilege, identity, and discrimination with the people you love is a precarious balancing act if you are the only minority…”
“In trying to preserve these relationships, while deducing how to assert your own identity in a world that only sees binaries and in a family that may not fully see you, there is a risk of rejection, isolation, and mental instability.”
“Standing out as the only nonwhite face can leave you at a strange intersection of feeling loved yet not fully understood, seen but at the same time not seen.”
I am in no way terming race as a disability, but the experiences and feelings of being placed in an other category of humans as a deaf person, I suspect, are similar. Granted, I am seen from a distance as a “normal”—I detest that word—white woman with a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a family with a husband and two children, several educational degrees, and a career.
I know I am blessed.
However, the moment I speak or find myself in a mishap, the covert and overt process of casting me out begins. My speech denotes me as unintelligent, incapable of thought and expression. I am talked down to. I’m often taught how to say sounds and words correctly rather than having my story heard. My mishaps, because I don’t hear behind me, places me in lessons of how to behave next time, how to be polite or at least stay out of the way. And in my desire to belong, I must not disrupt traditional ways of doing things, such as suggesting a move-around buffet for opportunities to catch one-on-one or -two conversations instead of a large family sit-down dinner which leaves me utterly lost and lonely. I am expected to sympathize with people who find me cumbersome to converse with. And in the end, I’m to be pitied and patronized.
In other words, I must cross my legs, fold my hands, and be a good girl.
Or I can make good trouble.
But what is “good trouble” in my view is rarely seen as “good trouble” in the view of my circle.
So begins my exploration what it means to live in and navigate a post-pandemic world as a deaf woman, one that I’m not wanting it to go “back to normal.”