Q&A with Blaine musician Gina Williams on race

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Gina Williams, a Blaine musician, hosted a Facebook Live forum on race on June 25. The Northern Light followed up with Williams after her forum to talk about what she sees in the Blaine community when dealing with race. The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

TNL: Can you tell us about your perspective on anti-bullying education in schools?

GW: My main point to the schools would be more from an anti-bullying perspective because not everyone understands racism but we all understand the concept of bullying, even if we weren’t bullied.

And a lot of times when people are able to verbalize what makes sense in their head of what being kind looks like, then it’s easier to do it than to have someone else tell you to “go do this.” It’s about empowering the kids so that they can make a difference and start looking outside the box.

I know stereotypes are set up but to be able to break through those things and allow all people of all ethnicities to shine, the way they’re meant to shine, because none of us are born in boxes. We take on the boxes as life
shapes us.

I respect the fact that not everybody can handle a certain amount of shock value, but unfortunately, racism doesn’t wait until you grow up before people are calling you nigger and spitting at you. I was six. The sooner we can get rid of these weird things that we’re taught, we can help educate our parents and our parents’ parents.

TNL: Based on your experience, what do non-Black people in Blaine need to do to become better allies for their Black neighbors?

GW: There was a sign near where I live that said “Love your Black, brown neighbor” and I loved that because it was just about love. Love has never been meant to be racial or political. It’s just who
we are.

If you don’t know, just smile or nod. Just acknowledging someone’s presence is enough for me. Especially in Black culture, when we see another nod and smile, it’s an unspoken way of saying “I see you. I acknowledge you taking up space in this world.” The more we’re grateful where we’re at, the more we can show grace and kindness toward someone else. It’s the silence that gets us. Saying nothing, talking about everything but ‘it.’ It’s risky to be nice these days and it really shouldn’t be.

I know there aren’t a whole lot of Black people in Blaine. People know I’m a safe house, for lack of a better term, when it comes to these sensitive issues because I don’t care how racist the question might sound. I’ve heard it all. There isn’t a question that someone can ask me that I probably haven’t already heard. I’m not one to judge anyone who wants to know. The best thing for people to do is to take in all the realities, the good, the bad, the ugly just so your awareness is complete and not one-sided or narrow.

For some people, they don’t want to hear anything negative to ruin their day. Then it’s like clearly you don’t understand race relations if you can’t hear anything negative because it’s one of the most messy, ugly sides of humanity. But I think we can get through it. That’s the part that saddens me most is when people launch into their experiences as opposed to saying, “Hey, what’s up with you? How are you taking this? What happened with you?” I’m always open to hearing where other people are coming from with their reality but you’ve got to hear a piece of mine.

I think where a lot of our white brothers and sisters shy away from us Black people is getting into the heavy nitty-gritty because racism in its fullest glory is horrible. It’s incredibly tragic. I don’t have another word. I think a lot of our white brothers and sisters don’t want to know all of that. We as Black people need to be sensitive that some people might need the shallow end because not everybody can swim in deep waters. But going into the water is always healing for everybody. It just takes one person who doesn’t like the way you look and that’s something that I don’t think people really understand. It just takes one person and my life is over.

TNL: What changes would you like to see in the Blaine community?

GW: For me, I would like people who are struggling with how they see Black people and are really angry with where they’re at to reach out. Just for people to say “I don’t get it. I really don’t get what this is about,” and to be open enough to let me explain it in a way that might make sense.

There’s a tiny part of humanity that says “I know this isn’t right but,” and we hold onto the “but.” It’s that “but” that I hope people will feel safe with me at some point to be able to share. It goes deep but it’s important. People shouldn’t feel like they should only show one side or the safe side or the public side of themselves and have a certain side around certain people. They should be whole individuals.

I might not know what to say but I’m willing to deal with that level of discomfort if something can come out of it that is helpful because hiding parts of oneself takes more work than to come out and to feel free. I feel a good chunk of Blaine is too quiet.

For more information about Gina Williams and her music visit Facebook.com/GinaSounds.

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