I used to look in the mirror and be ashamed of the color of my skin, because it came with negative connotations that I felt as though I had to strive to distance myself from!
I was born in America… I think most people in this room can attest to that. I’m not completely and utterly informed about every hate crime and every action that was taken that lead me and my race to where we are today. However, I try to absorb enough knowledge that I can understand the precarious situation that African-Americans are in today.
I say African-American despite the fact that the term in itself manages to effectively tick me off. I don’t call my friends Polish-Slovakian-American or Honduran-Venezuelan American do I? Just by looking at the darker color of my skin, it’s plain as day that I’m “African-American”.
I used to look in the mirror and be ashamed of the color of my skin, because it came with negative connotations that I felt as though I had to strive to distance myself from! The popular American outlook on blacks is skewed and the ‘celebration’ of black history month, the stereotypes surrounding blacks, coupled with the dissociation of likeable qualities we might possess only further distorts this faulty perspective.
From the tender age of 3, I attended a predominantly black private Christian school, I excelled in my studies and our school was quite big on the prospect of black history. Needless to say, the transition to public school was not completely seamless. There were many stark differences, simply being surrounded by all these faces that were unlike my own was foreign, and a bit daunting. However, when February rolled around, we started our ‘black history’ lessons.
When I say ‘slavery’ you say ‘sorry’!
Sorry our forefathers brought you to this foreign land after buying you off of your own people! It’s incredibly unfortunate that they beat, raped, pillaged and reaped the fruits of your forced labor. Sorry it took so long for us to even acknowledge you as human beings… and that even after the 1960’s you still struggled for that declaration of life, liberty, and property promised so long ago- granted your kind was still considered property then and have since then progressed [somewhat].
Do I think black history month is a good idea? Absolutely not. When we sit through our history classes and it comes time to talk about blacks in America we’ve been force fed the same watered down, cookie-cutter lesson since elementary school. We talk about Booker T. Washington, the educated black man. We talk about George Washington Carver- I spent a good portion of elementary school believing that he invented the peanut. We talk about Martin Luther King, though many of us have become numb to his powerful I Have A Dream speech. Most people stop paying attention to these lessons around seventh or eighth grade!
All that the fight has ever been for is equality. Giving us a month - the shortest month of the year nonetheless- is just another way of setting us apart from the rest, and giving some reason to believe that this ‘celebration of black history’ gives us the notion of superiority. I’ve heard more people than I care to say talk about how they think that if there is a black history month, there should also be a white history month and that the entire concept is perpetuating reverse racism.
First of all, reverse racism does not exist. What is that? The definition of racism does not limit the prejudice to just one race. Second, white history month is literally every month of the year! Let’s be real, we learn “white history ft. those unfortunate [insert race/nationality here]” every year in school!! Why should my people be set aside as though we are a separate species? Black history is American History. Yet, this month has become a time when people with little knowledge of my heritage spend pretending to care about something they haven’t even begun to understand and don’t really care to.
It’s incredibly important educate ourselves on such things- regardless of how ‘controversial’ it is because it’s imperative to be knowledgeable about such relevant issues! If you think for one second that I enjoy watching movies about civil rights and slavery in which I have to watch the main characters be brutally beaten, dehumanized and slaughtered for no reason other than the color of their skin, you are sadly mistaken. My parents used to have to force me to watch these movies, but as I get older I understand why they are important.
Turning a blind eye on history only leaves us impaired and unaware of a glaring issue that will not go away due to a refusal to acknowledge it. Perhaps it is this ignorance that makes way for the sickening stereotypes that have latched onto blacks and rattle and drag behind us like the chains that once held our ancestors in bondage. When people meet me, they’re often shocked to know that I can pronounce my words with all of their syllables and am a pescatarian.
What? Intelligent negro woman? What? You mean you don’t love fried chicken?
So naturally, I’m not actually black. I’m clearly white. “I don’t see you as black.” Wow thanks, I’ve achieved all of my goals! “You know you’re white.” Maybe I missed the part where the color drained from my skin, but telling me I’m not my own race because you would rather associate my likeable qualities with a race you are more partial to, is not okay.
“You’re [one of] the only black people I trust/like/talk to.” Contrary to popular belief… it isn’t my deepest desire to be a white girl. There was a time when I would strive to achieve this label, to be told I was white as if it were this intangible stamp of approval that was a necessity for my social survival. I’m the exception for you because I have an abhorrence to most R&B, rap and gospel music? Because I’m not the ‘crazy, ghetto, ratchet’ girl that you immediately profiled me as? I listen to rock, indie, and punk music that rejects the ideals that make your typical black female, so I’m tolerable?
In the Italian Renaissance they would paint the heavenly as fair skinned light people and the devil and his followers as evil dark disgusting creatures. Because our history is saturated with racial inequality, and it may have been buried beneath semi-remorseful reforms, but the roots run deep, ‘African-Americans’ are still written off. It shouldn’t have been an almost controversial event when a ‘man of color’ ran for president.
Has anyone ever turned on the news to see the headline: ‘White man runs for office’? Darker skin has become indicative of evil, as it has been taught as such for centuries. The doll test is a study performed several times, in which children are sat before two dolls- one black and one white. The children are asked questions about which doll is pretty or ugly, which doll is good or bad, which doll they would rather play with. Take a wild guess which doll was ‘bad’? Even black children thought that the doll that was closer in color to their own skin was ugly and bad.
I refuse to keep my opinions on these matters to myself. I can no longer turn a blind eye, I care too much. I can no longer laugh at jokes in which the punch line is the color of my skin, I know too much.Is my plight so shocking? Should I hide my indignance at the way that things are?
I was born in America. I am black. I am an American. And I demand change.
[thank you exstntl for having strong opinions that inspired me…. I wouldn’t have gotten to a place where I could write this if I’d not found your blog]