Growing up in a largely White town, going to a mostly White school, raised by a White parent, I grew up with a very White perspective of the world. I heard racist jokes often from my peers but grew thick skin because if it was about Blacks the White teller would often excuse me and say “but not you Tash, you’re not really Black.” and then compare me to a chocolate/candy, such as a Malteaser or Almond Joy, and we’d all laugh. Nevertheless, it always made me flinch. What did that mean, that “I wasn’t really Black?” was I not “really white” either? What did my existence actually qualify as?
Here’s an insight for you: I used to be complimented on having such a White nose, and I prided myself on it. I also used to be complimented for having such “nice hair for a Mulatto”, so I prided myself on that too. I felt intense anxiety, but covered it with a smile when my best friend’s boyfriend told me at 16 that I was “as dark as a Gorilla” after coming back from a 3 week holiday in Italy. When people started telling me I should “straighten my hair more often because [I looked] Brazilian” I straightened my hair incessantly for almost 6 years, believing somehow that my natural hair made me look less pretty because it made me look Black rather than Brazilian.
Guess my thick skin wasn’t that thick.
Why am I giving you this insight into my youth? Because Racism is vile. It needs to stop. And although there’s no more apartheid and all that jazz, it is still very alive within some people. Interracial couples often feel the sting of it (Click here for some food for thought). International students experience the pity of it. Then there’s those like My Better Half and I (he is full Black btw), who get “You’re Black and British? I didn’t know there were Black people in Britain!” idiocy. But that’s another story.
If you tell racist jokes, ever, I implore you to stop. Being the butt of a joke is only funny X-amount of times. Jokes subliminally perpetuate mentalities. Good or bad. Joking about how someone is worth less than you or mocking their culture is not ok, because you are reinforcing that underlying insult that “I’m better than you because of X, Y and Z”.
It’s interesting to me that Racism goes all ways. In fact, I will share one last story. One of my Black relatives was once being extremely racist against Chinese and White people -amongst other things- in a Chinese restaurant. He was being obnoxious and rude and I felt dirty just hearing his words. Have you ever felt that way? Well, my heart started pounding. Wasn’t anyone going to inform him he wasn’t funny? Wasn’t anyone going to tell him he was out of line? No. They weren’t. They didn’t. Perhaps they felt awful too, but something inside me snapped. I gave him a piece of my mind. Unfortunately in a very angry manner. To this day he hasn’t said anything like that in my presence. Yes he’s family, but so what. There’s no excuse for allowing that type of ignorance. No way. The only things I regret are these:
1) I chastised him in anger
2) Younger Me wasn’t confident to be bold to those saying similar things.
It is my belief that all races are beautiful. There’s so much more to a person and their potential than the shade of their skin. If we really want to get away from our Racist mentalities we need to be open to compassion and seek to know one another.
What inspired this post was Lupita Lungoy’o’s speech, about Black beauty for girls. Whatever race/s you are I recommend the watch.
“Get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.” Lupita Lungoy’o
Click here for Lupita’s Wonderful Speech
What do you think: is conflict sometimes necessary if it means standing up for what’s right? How can we quell this soul numbing disease of racism? I’d love to know your stance on the general issue.