Racial inequality is an issue, whether people want to admit it or not.
But should marginalized people participate in an oppression Olympics where they compete to see who has it worse?
A 21-year-old woman of Indian descent doesn’t think so, but her roommate—also 21—seems to disagree. Fed up, she turned to the Relationship Advice subReddit for help.
Redditor ThrowRA_tiredaf posted:
“HELP: My Black roommate keeps on comparing the racism she faces to the racism I (an Indian) face.”
“It’s become a competition and I’m starting to hate her.”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“Let me preface this by saying that this post isn’t an attack towards black people in general. This is just my experience with one person who happens to be a certain race.”
“I’m not trying to generalise or anything. This is more about the roommate as a person than about her race.”
“So, my roommate is Black American woman and I’m a first generation immigrant from India; North India to be precise. I moved to the US for college about 3 years back.”
“I like my roommate and we get along pretty well, but whenever I mention about some racism related incident towards me, she’s always like ‘oh, that’s nothing. You don’t know what I have to go through as a black woman’.”
“Every. Single. Time.”
“I completely sympathise with her and I know that our experiences aren’t the same, but saying that the racism I face is nothing feels very wrong and frankly, angering. I told her this and since then, it’s become some kind of competition for her and she’s hell bent on proving that she has it far worse than I do.”
“She even went as far as to say that since I’m pretty light skinned, I could always larp as someone from Persia or the Middle East if I don’t want to be associated with stereotypes about India.”
“When I told her that this logic was stupid, because a. I don’t want to dissociate myself from my home country and b. people from the Middle East and Iran also face racism because they’re brown too and add to that Islamophobia as well, her response was ‘well, not as bad as black people do’.”
“And I agree with all of what she says, I don’t really have it as bad as other people, but I have my issues and it feels like she’s always invalidating them.”
“We used to be good friends and had fun hanging out together, but I now don’t even want to be in the same room as her. I’ve tried explaining it to her but she just doesn’t get it.”
“I’ve been avoiding her since the past month or so and she’s picked up on it and is very upset because she considered me a friend. I don’t see how this friendship can continue any longer if she doesn’t understand what my issue is and I’m no longer willing to tolerate her behaviour regarding this.”
“It seems like a dead end but I also don’t want this friendship to end. Also that she’s my roommate and I’m kinda stuck with her for the time being, so I’d like things to not be awkward.”
The OP added:
“She said ‘that’s not a real issue’ when I told her about someone constantly making fun of my Indian accent and asking me to do the ‘Apu voice’.”
“I’ve stopped talking to her about racist remarks I receive but given what’s going on in America, and given that we’re stuck together 24/7 due to coronavirus, the racism issue is hard to avoid and then she starts with the ‘you’re lucky you don’t have it as bad as me’ thing.”
“I don’t want it all to be about me. But someone making it all about themselves isn’t right either. I don’t like someone telling me that my problems aren’t real or are nothing just because they might not be as severe.”
The OP asked Reddit:
Redditors offered the best advice they could come up with.
“I’m going to take the topic of ‘why’ out of this situation because I think it really isn’t the focus. You have someone you thought you had a friendship with who has become argumentative, unsupportive and unwilling to listen to your hardships.”
“Rather than help create a mutually beneficial support network, she’s become hostile and negative. You are capable of trying to understand her experiences, and have.”
“She has not done the same for you. This is why you should move on from this friendship.”
“Not because of a race issue, because you have a friend who isn’t acting in a way a friend should. You don’t have to have experienced someone’s hardship to have empathy for them.”
“Some people may advise you just not talk about the issue. I’m going to tell you that won’t fix the problem of having ‘friends’ who aren’t willing to practice empathy.”
“Friends with topics you have to tip toe around or not engage aren’t really high quality friends.” ~ xtlou
“A quote comes to mind. ‘Others that are struggling are not your enemy, it’s not a competition. It’s embarrassing to have to explain this’.”
“Some people just want to feel centralized and most important. In America, we tend to adapt a very self-centered mindset.”
“You and her are on the same side fighting the same racist ideals, if she makes it into a competition then she has skewed morals. I just wouldn’t talk to her about it anymore.” ~ get-bread-not-head
“It depends on how invested you are in the friendship. If you care about this friendship, I think your best strategy is to ask her what she expects you to do.”
“Tell her, ‘I believe that the racism you experience is different and worse than mine. But my experience is still real and difficult, and I need to be able to talk about it to someone without feeling judged’.”
“‘Because we live together and we’re friends, I want to be able to talk to you, but every time I bring it up, you shut me down by saying you have it worse. I agree! I know you have it worse’.”
“‘I’m not arguing with you or trying to say my experience is worse, I just want to be able to vent about my day to my friend who I live with. But what we’re doing now clearly isn’t working for either of us’.”
“‘You get frustrated with me for bringing it up, and I feel invalidated. And this dynamic is starting to affect our friendship’.”
“So if this is something that you can’t hear from me, just let me know and I’ll find someone else to talk to about it instead. But if you do want to be able to talk about this stuff, then let’s do it differently’.”
“But, if you expect she’d react badly to this kind of heart-to-heart & you just want to keep things cordial & friendly because you are living together, I’d say just avoid the subject of race altogether and accept that you can’t be emotionally intimate with her.” ~ therealthisishannah
“She has it worse than you. OK. Why not point out there are people who have it worse than her, too?”
“Now does she want to never be able to speak again about her experiences because someone else has it worse? Because that’s exactly what she’s doing to you.”
“So either there’s one person on the planet who has it worse than everyone who gets to vent about their experiences or she can grow TF up and stop invalidating people so she can feel more important.”
“Tell her to get off the cross, someone needs the wood.” ~ LakotaGrl
Discrimination is not a contest. There is no Oppression Olympics.
And even if there was, who would want to win?