Never Say “Get over it!”

The actors in Passage Theatre Company’s “Race – Let’s Talk About It” had read their lines and then, along with the play’s authors and director, had gathered on stage for an informal discussion with the audience. The topics were familiar: poverty, injustice, the depressingly familiar account of a white couple who got up from their table when a black couple was seated next to themeven in this day and age.

We are allblack and whitefeeling the pain of racism. Who had taught black people that black hair is ugly? Suddenly one of the actors, with a passion that seems to surprise even her, explodes, “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER tell me to ‘Get over it.’”

The audience and people on stage cheer her openness, the courage to speak her mind. But I wince. Suddenly I am white. Those words and that anger distance me. I would like nothing more than to get over itto move beyond the pain of slaverybecause it is my people who were responsible. I understand the painmay feel actual painbut there is nothing I as an individual can do to change the history of that pain.

I’m angry now. I do want to tell you to “Get over it” to spare myself a guilt I don’t deserve. I want to tell you to get over it, but white people are not supposed to tell black people what to do. So frustrating! It’s not that I want to minimize history. I don’t want to tell you how to feel. But hearing your anger hurts. Invoking history continues to divide us into white and black. Aren’t we both victims of our history?

Could anger be part of a conversation about race? Why the difference between those who don’t get over it and those who move on? Whose anger is it? Where should it be directed?

One thought on “Never Say “Get over it!”

  1. Susan Bodinet

    RE: Those who don’t “get over it” VS Those who move on
    Is it a Black Decision? Or a Universal Choice?
    I have always been fascinated by personal improvement stories. What is that magical ingredient that one person has that others lack? The stories that begin in the ghetto of every big city have particular interest to me. Actual accounts of two boys of the same age, both growing up in the tenement house, each being raised by a single mom, and having two siblings. Why is it that one boy ends up dead at 18, and the other boy goes on to college?

    Was the deceased boy “born angry”, and the other boy born innocent? Where does it all start? We are conditioned from a very early age by attitudes of the parents and other adults. It’s not ” a black thing”, but a universal result, that a child is either brought up neglected, or brought up with love, guidance and respect. I am reminded of the actual story of Sidney Portier’s upbringing. Raised on an isolated island off the coast of the Carolinas, he did not experience prejudice growing up. His parents did not have money, but they gave him a rich foundation of love and a healthy dose of self respect. As a young man he stepped off the island into the “real world”, and has conducted his life using the foundation he received.

    People describe their outlook on life as either, “glass half full”, or “half empty”. The best thing we can do for any child is to show them they have a choice, to recognize opportunities, to give something new a try,and learn from their failures. Many people (black and white) had an upbringing in a dysfunctional family. These individuals can perpetuate the mistakes (possibly made for generations), fester in anger and resentment, or break the mold.

    RE: Ultimate Decision
    And finally, the one interesting concept I am trying to embrace mentally and emotionally. People who have experienced a loved one being senselessly killed by someone. Some have come to the conclusion to FORGIVE the murderer, rather than conduct the rest of their life with anger and bitterness. They say it has freed them. Is it difficult reasoning to achieve? Is this a concept that will allow us to move on?

    Reply

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