Check your privilege! What mosquito bites and language have in common
I am still numb, in a kind of floating state and simply empty.
In a coaching session my coachee should give shape to his inner voices. By identifying the so-called inner team we can get to know and confront our inner voices. You surely know this, in certain situations two or even more voices suddenly become loud in us and start to argue - similar to a German band called Fettes Brot in their song ‘Jein’: "There appear angel and devil on my shoulder, angel on the left, devil on the right...". I don't want to go into detail about the method at this point.
My coachee described the figure as a devil with a black skin colour. I was already shaking inside and thought: "Oh no, again the black people are the bad guys." But since these kinds of thoughts should have no place in a coaching conversation, I quickly got rid of them and focused on the conversation again. When describing the second voice or its shape, I could hardly hold on to myself inside. He described the angelic person with "normal" skin colour, which means light skin. I am convinced that my coachee was not aware at any moment that I as a PoC could be offended by such a statement.
Of course I am aware that White people see themselves as the norm in a White majority society. And that such a statement per se is not evil. But are White people aware of what this kind of statement might do to me?
"These little moments, they seem like mosquito bites. Barely visible, endurable individually, but in sheer sum, the pain becomes unbearable." Alice Hastert
Besides Alice Hastert, Tupoka Ogette also uses the image of mosquito bites to describe these seemingly harmless little remarks called microaggressions. I feel these bites every day - even in times of the COVID 19 pandemic, when I have less personal contact with people. But no matter where I look: Whether I'm reading the newspaper, watching TV or social media, the message is always the same: I'm not normal. I do not belong.
I feel that way because my blonde and blue-eyed wife's shampoo says "normal" on it and it's not good for my hair. I feel that way because in my hometown of Cologne, despite its cosmopolitanism, I am asked daily where I come from. I feel the same way when I am praised in Germany for speaking German so well.
Many of you who are not PoC have probably read or heard this often. Nevertheless: I would like to see more awareness for the use of our language. Because in the long run, these linguistic mosquito bites can be very painful.