Race, Taboo and Pride
I often hear people say that they are color blind, they say that race doesn't matter to them or that racism isn't as "big" of an issue as it was. People go out of their way to make others comfortable about the subject. For some reason they take on this slave mentality by not discussing the issues at all which causes great pain.
I grew up in the 90's when black culture was being embraced, when Nelson Mandela was a familiar face on the TV screen so my generation saw the South African president not the man who'd spent 27 years incarcerated. You could say that as black kids we had it easy compared to those who suffered and fought for the right to simply be considered human. I can't say I remember the LA riots, I do however remember the fury of that white bronco, the trial, watching tv with my dad confused by the anger over the verdict and wondering why black people were so happy and white people so angry. I was 7 at the time, naive to life and like most kids that age I didn't know what racism really was. In school they taught us about MLK and to my knowledge he'd "handled" that so it didn't exist anymore. The majority of my dolls were black, I didn't really get the concept or understand why my mother went out of her way to direct me towards the brown dolls. All I knew was that white girls had long hair that they could flip, pull up and swing! I wanted hair like that, I wanted a name that I could share with a classmate and they'd have to use my last initial to differentiate such as Sarah T. and Sarah J. I thought white people were just these carefree, jolly and stress free type of people. I didn't know any better, I was a child and my perception was that of a child's so I made up in my mind that I wanted to be white. If I were white I could wear my hair down ALL the time not just on Easter and I wouldn't have to sit still with that awful hot comb running through my hair! I was 8 when I randomly blurted to my mother," I wish I were white!" I don't really remember her giving much of a response, she was very quiet and a look of sadness kind of swept her face, Later that day she set a few black history books in front of me, I came home from school one day to find her standing on her tip toes with a brown marker and coloring all the faces of the ballerinas on my bedroom boarder. For my birthday that year I received a cabbage patch doll (my color) and a book titled Black Women in History. In so many words she was saying you're black, be proud! Every year in school we had to do a black history report but while most kids wrote about Martin, Rosa or Harriet my mother made me dig deeper. I remember being in second grade and my report was on Dr. Daniel Hale Williams who was not just the first black open heart surgeon but the first person to successfully perform the operation. There were books like Follow The Drinking Gourd, Amazing Grace, Jamaicas Fine that flooded my bookshelf. If I knew nothing else I knew that I was black. I was very sure of who I was by the end of elementary, I knew more history than most adults, very cultured in music and my mother wasn't a black power fanatic or anything she just wanted me to know who I was. Most of my friends were white so the music they listened to I listened to as well, the videos they watched I watched so even though I was cultured in the sense that I knew my history that did not matter when I started middle school. Black culture is not the same as white culture, people can say we are all the same ALL day but that's a lie. I ended up at a more urban middle school surrounded by more black kids than I had ever seen in a school, I really did not know how to fit in. Although I've always associated myself as being black I'm of Cuban descent so my last name raised eyebrows. I didn't know much about black music other than gospel and some oldies. I wasn't dressed like them , I didn't talk like them and I learned a new thing that was common amongst black women which was "self hatred." I don't say that to say white women don't experience that but amongst black women it's an awful disease. It comes in many categories but the main ones that I'll never understand are breaking down into shades of color and grades of hair. If you don't have long hair or a certain texture of hair it's an issue, if your skin is lighter you're labeled stuck up from the beginning. We call this colorism and it's very common amongst black women. I've been called stuck up, bougie and gotten the infamous " she thinks she's cute." I didn't grow up with that, most of my friends were white so naturally I thought surely my own will embrace me. If you speak with proper diction, over pronunciate your words and aren't familiar with slang then be prepared to be told that you "talk white." White girl was a name I was very familiar with and over the years I still flinch when told that's what I act like. I wasn't aware that one could act a color and it's really a stereotype that once again puts white women on a pedestal. Acting black means that you're uneducated, ignorant and ghetto. That's a stereotype that sits next to acting white which means you think that you're better and that you're superior to other races. I truly believe that if we would just sit down, discuss these stereotypes, notions and thoughts we could progress! Racism is still alive and it's screaming. Racism never left, it never died and I feel like we just learned to ignore it. We learned to overlook it and sweep it under a rug but it never died. As a black woman or a woman of color I have to face stereotypes and issues that my white counterparts do not. When I mess up I don't just carry the weight of disappointing myself or family but I face the risk of causing shame to be brought on my race. I'm sure white people don't say oh there's another failure who makes our race look bad but because of the stereotypes that were already set in place when I was in my mothers womb I had to be taught differently. As a black girl you have to be the best, you have to break and shatter myths. Our mothers overdressed us, made sure we were extra clean, put a strong emphasis on appearance because they knew the hardships we'd face in life. It's 2015 and if you can't feel the racial tension you either live under a rock or on the other side which we call the privileged side. Racism is not subtle on this side, it's not uncommon or rare and I feel that it should be rare. It will never be extinct but we can minimize the sting admitting that it is still an issue and not pretending that it'll just go away. Right now we are a few months shy of the Ferguson riots, we are still reeling over police brutality that has claimed black men and women's lives without any remorse or conviction. We saw Baltimore and the uprising last week. I read comments that said they were being dramatic, ignorant and out of control. My opinion is that the police that are taking lives are ignorant and out of control. I can't say what I'd do if someone I loved was taken in that manner... I can't say that I really care about the property damage even though some innocent people lost somethings. Some innocent people also lost loved ones, some innocent people also lost children, brothers, cousins, sisters and grandchildren so can't say that my heart goes out to property. My heart goes out to people who are victims of injustice. There's no way those on the other side of "privilege" could begin to understand what it's like to not have a voice, to be stereotyped simply because you're black or to feel like you're risking your life by just walking to a gas station or store. Over the next few months I'll be posting more about race, about stereotypes and we can discuss the issues. I hope you'll join me! ❤️