Tuesday, September 30, 2014

True Colors

True Colors

In America you are defined by many things but for me, one thing in particular has always been the subject of many insults, debates, fits of anger, and despair. That subject is my blackness. (or lack there of) So what is this talk of skin delegating whether my brown is too much or not enough? The majority of my friends being of the lighter persuasion (you know, Caucasian) and even though they are my friends still feeling the need to step lightly and not truly be myself for fear of my brown round peg self falling into the stereotypical round hole. Why? Because apparently there is supposed to be some truth in the labeling which is why it stings when you are categorized, broken down, and told to go to the back of the bus. 

What brings on this Moor monologue for the month of September? What snide ignorant remark or question broke this camel's back? An email. I received a very lengthy email from a former friend. Bear in mind this person had just started to come back into my good graces after apologizing for other offences and in an act of empathy I cracked a door that I should have left closed to her. I wont make that mistake again. I will still be civil but it will never ever be as it was before. 

I posted a picture on a social media site with the statement “Um...say what??? Color me flabbergasted! Only in Texas”.  The picture was of some dolls that were titled “Color Your African” and another that said “Color Your Mexican” A friend of mine (Caucasian) stated That's offensive. I wonder who thought that was a good idea? The former friend I mentioned earlier wanted to know why it was offensive. (I was at work and wasn't aware of the conversation until I came home that evening) and was pleased when I realized my friend who said it was offensive (I agreed) answered with The phrase "color your Mexican" sounds like ownership to me. It just doesn't set well that the dolls are named by race. I have no problem with ethnic dolls. I'm all for that. These just seem like they could have been more sensitive with the packaging and just not the best idea. Once again after reading her response I was in agreement and continued to read responses. She again was still not understanding the offence (even though I thought it was well stated) and again asked why it was offensive because the dolls were originally made in Hong Kong and they probably didn't know it would be offensive.  She then decided to do research on the dolls to argue the point that it wasn't offensive because she didn't think the company meant for it to be. (Whether something is meant to be offensive or not is not the point here. My point was I was offended) Meanwhile my personal inbox was flooded by those reading this social media onversation and asking why I was friends with this "person" (the words they used weren't as nice) So once again, in my absence my friend tried to explain by being a bit cheeky (she is after all my friend) So the shop owner that sells these in Texas was probably not from the USA. They probably can't see that this sounds offensive. They probably are not racist nor are they getting a little laugh out of it.That wasn't meant to sound sarcastic. I'm just trying to think the way you do. (I admit, I giggled) I understand what you are trying to say ------. However, the company that made these dolls Craftoy and their parent company both have websites that contain proper English. I found no obvious grammatical errors either. They apparently used someone from this country to create their websites. They could have done some research on our culture and values. Having said that, the bigger problem is that a store owner in this country has no problem selling this product even though it is offensive On one more note, I also wish this world we live in as a whole was more sensitive to others feelings. Even in our country as great as it is, there is room for growth and consideration of others thoughts and feelings. I am not one of the ethnicities that this product would offend and yet I find it offensive. If I can see the problem then it would stand to reason that others would as well. So well stated that I didn't think I needed to elaborate on what she said. I was wrong. Reading this
still bothered me. I felt unheard by the person who is now my former friend I finally got tired of dismissing it as just the way she is and letting it go. We had had many discussions involving offensive terms and she ousted them as silly because she didn't understand why. So I called her out. She was always bold in speech. Apparently explaining things to her as I have before was not effective. I would usually change the subject or give up because I was asked "Why?" more than a toddler who's overdosed on candy. I was bold and matter of fact and gave examples. (That's what she did in asking why) I showed my humaness (I know that's not a word) and told her about herself. Personally I felt deeply hurt that she worked so hard to reject my feeling of violation. I may not have handled it the best way but it needed to be said.

History and the Present
I recently explained to my niece that the way physician's clinics now have a sick waiting room and a well waiting room is how it used to be in the United States of America only one side of the waiting room labeled “White Only” and another “Colored” The only look on her face was that of confusion. “Isn't that illegal?” I answered with a “Now it is.” It was called separate but equal and in all reality there was nothing equal about it. As I share slices of history with her I want her to embrace and love her little brown female self. I want her to see her beauty when the media or some bitter soul tries to tell her that her black isn't beautiful, her body is wrong, or her hair is too much.

I usually try to keep this blog under a page but this subject needed to be vented for my own sake. So let's take a look at my melting pot American hide and see what my DNA has to say. My ancestors lived in North America (The Ojibwa Nation), Africa, India, and the island of Samoa. Look at all the minorities! (that's right, I said it!) Ding, ding, ding... it's a brown out!

Here are some of my thoughts and feelings on some things racial

On skin tone
“Black coffee no sugar, no cream” is not just part of a Hip-hop lyric. It is what a man in my neighborhood used to say when he was talking about his wife. It was not said as an insult but as endearing. He loved his dark chocolate, strong, black woman and gladly shared that information with whoever would listen.

The color fight in the USA is still a struggle not just down south either. The separation of slaves into "house slaves" and "field slaves" the lighter skinned slaves (either from not being outside in the sun all day or a product of the master's lust) made you "better", closer to being white, and afforded you privileges.

As a child around the age of 8 a woman at my church asked me what happened to me because I used to be such a pretty baby but now I'm too dark. Yep, An adult light-skinned African American woman said this to a child. I learned at the age of 8 that some people (in my own racial community) saw me as ugly because I was no longer as light or lighter than a brown paper bag. (Google The Brown Paper Bag Test for your own educational knowledge.) 

In middle school, I was infatuated with a dark skinned boy named Aaron. When I was brave enough to tell him I was rejected with "Sorry baby, I don't like any cream in my coffee" 
Wait... what? So, I'm too brown and yet not brown enough?
My infatuation in high school was a Caucasian guy named Jesse. "Sorry but if I date outside my race they are light-skinned girls". Seriously???
Apparently my love for all tones of America was rejected by a big brick wall of bigotry.

On the “N” word
I am a member of the African American community and I detest that word. It doesn't matter if it's said ending in an “er” or an “a” That word does not come from my lips. The original root word ("er") is a name given to a group of people as a means to inflict oppression and inferiority. It bothers me when it comes from the mouth of my own people but I feel angry when it comes out of the mouth of a person that is not of African decent. As my friend Shawn once stated “Yes, membership does have it's privileges”. If you don't get that, it's okay. Just know that the majority of African Americans find it offensive and you may face unknown consequences for using it. Moving on...

On hair
This one still baffles me. If you haven't heard the expression "good hair" I recommend Chris Rock's documentary with the same name for your educational purposes.
Apparently "good hair" in the African American community refers to straight, wavy, or loosely curled hair (Google "The Pencil Test Apartheid"). Ask any cancer patient, or person with Alopecia and their answer would be vastly different. Having your own hair regardless of it's texture would be good.

I used to heat straighten my hair it took over 4 hours (I have a lot of hair) I got over it and wear my corkscrews proudly. I have also tried relaxers not for me but nothing wrong with that if you choose. Madam C. J. Walker (born in 1867) was the first African american female millionaire. Can't be mad at that.

On Injustice
The drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.” 
― Mary McLeod Bethune

Do I believe racism in America still exists?  Yes and I will believe it  does until a brown child can safely walk down any street in America carrying only a snack of Skittles and an Arizona ice tea. I will believe it still exists when an unarmed brown man is shot to death after surrendering to police.

Do I believe in the use of Affirmative action? If I didn't receive long lengthy emails from people using it as an excuse for knowing what it's like to be racially discriminated against. (yes, former friend went there and I shut her down) If there wasn't a need for Affirmative action we would not be having these conversations. She just took my statement and manipulated it into being about her! 

Truth is, there is white privilege. Ignorance says it isn't so. Just because in high school you were blocked in the hallway by three black girls who wouldn't let you pass because you were white. It was during the time when segregation and "bussing" in schools was in the early stages. That doesn't mean you understand racial prejudice. I had the same thing happen to me. It was not because I was black but because it was high school and girls can be mean. I bet that experience was scary for you but try to imagine what black kids your age was going through. Try everyday being threatened, spit on, beaten, hanged, and shot for being black. 

As for me, I'm reminded almost everyday of the struggle still being real. Try everyday having  someone question your motives or try being watched closely while shopping for being brown. Try having all eyes looking at you when something goes missing because you are the only brown face present. 

I now step down from my soap box until another time.

Open your mind. learn about others, and grow.