I’ve got a massive frustration about what it’s like to walk through this world with a darker complexion. Don’t give me the “I don’t see colour” schpeal, because the truth of the matter is that we all in some way make assumptions about groups of people. I recognise that sometimes when someone asks a question, it may be harmless and it’s merely out of curiosity, but there are thing I am surprised need to be clarified in 2019. Like really?!? Claiming ignorance can only get you so far, because let’s be honest if I were to ask you something regarding a Kardashian, some of us can regurgitate it like an encyclopedia. So, get yourself a cup of tea and sit back because this is going to be a hot one.
While reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming, she is very candid about the fact that she was fully aware she not only represented her family, but represented the “whole” of the African-American population. For her this was something she took very seriously, embraced and stepped up and into this role. While this is admirable and I fully welcome and support her in doing so, the idea struck me in both a positive and negative way; how can we hang all of our expectations on one person, how can they represent a whole population or group of people? People with different life experiences, with different personalities, with different cultures, with different languages and traditions? By merely sharing the same classification of colour/race, surely doesn’t mean that I have to now be their representative? While, I recognise the symbolism of being the first African-American family in the White House and while I support and love the Obamas, I also feel conflicted, because they cannot represent what it means to be a Black person for everyone and they shouldn’t have to bear that burden either.
I am personally fed up of being the voice of all things equality in my every day life, I have to justify or clarify the decisions people of colour may or may not have made. I have to call people out on their biases and sometimes call myself out as well. I constantly reaffirm that we are multifaceted people just like our White counterparts, we experience emotion the same and we also make mistakes the very same way. For whatever reason, the increased melanin doesn’t seem to give you the luxury to be complex or 3 dimensional; people of colour automatically get characterized as over-emotional or even verging on aggressive. I realize that upon stating this fact, it is very much true for any person of colour, and not just African Americans. We cannot have flaws and we most certainly cannot express our emotions passionately, or else we are acting against some form of societal boundary that we did not know existed. This equally frustrates me because we can fully accept this is not something we expect or even demand from the White population, yet add colour to someone’s skin tone and we then seek the rep for all things colour. Whose voice will then be used for soundbites and click-bait, it’s a slippery slope of do’s and don’ts in the world of free speech.
The last few years there’s been an insurgence of bloggers, writers, and actors embracing our skin and our culture unapologetically and while I fully support this and even for myself have come to terms with embracing the skin I am in, I recognise that my skin colour isn’t a trend and shouldn’t be treated as such. Don’t use my skin to sell papers or to sell products, I won’t show alliegance to brands who only use Black bodies as a guise to make profit. I am the one who has to live day to day with the reprocussions of ignorance and predjutice; which is why I believe it’s equally important to support Black owned businesses. R2 recently sent me a paper that she had to read for a class, concerning the commodification of black bodies for profit, by both mass media and buisnesses. To think that a culture, and or race, could be used to sell more memrobilia and products in general, just gives me a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach… I don’t want to be seen as an item for sale. Nor do I want to idea of the type of products I consume, being used as a way to sell the “Black image”. #sorrynotsorry #notforsale
Another one of the things which irks me is the fact that my Blackness shouldn’t be a threat and if it makes you uncomfortable, then you need to look inward to figure out why that is. It’s not up to me to then tame or tone myself down in order to ensure your comfort, I never intended to make you uncomfortable, but I also can’t stop being me because it sets you on edge. White men and White women are passionate about things all the time and they are labled as just that- passionate. Change the colour of their skin and they don’t get the luxury of being “passionate”, they then become angry, unsophisticated, wild and sometimes threatening. It’s almost as if we’re not allowed to have these emotions. Emotions that in any other circumstance make us human, but when we speak up, we are being outrageous or my all time favourite one “playing the race card”. We all need to sit down and know our place, understanding that the space we take up is merely loaned to us, we do not belong. So what, I am more animated when I’m excited or annoyed! So what I get loud when I’m in a group? Are these not traits to be celebrated and embraced? Is passion and excitement something to be banned and shamed? I for one will fully support and embrace my colour and if that is deemed as a negative, then that’s on you and not me- I will not apologize for the way you choose to interpret that. I’m just trying to be me, the true me, that is not ashamed to express who I am, because its too much or too little for you.
I recognise this post was a fully impassioned one, but I encounter versions of these situations on almost a weekly basis and well…I’m fed up. Let us know what you think, do you agree or disagree?
Illustration- “Illustrated Ladies” by Aydrey Lee- http://www.audreyjl.com/