I was 11 years old when I found out I was Black. I grew up around Black people and the only white people I knew were the nuns and my teachers at the catholic school I attended. Everything was normal in my world until one day, my white English teacher made me aware I was different. I adored her and I don’t know how it came up but I asked her what would she do if her son married a Black woman and she said, “Oh no that would never happen. I want my grandchildren to look like me.” Wow. That was the beginning of my journey. It didn’t hit me till then even though two years before I had gotten perfect scores on the Iowa Basics tests we had to take and they could not believe a little 9 year old Black girl in an ‘urban’ catholic all Black school could possibly have scored so high. So they sent a representative to my school to test me alone. I did it again so then I was deemed a genius.
So my journey began where I started to read everything I could find about Black people because I wanted to know why would my teacher say such a thing like something was wrong with me. Then I heard my father curse for the first time in my life when we were driving from St. Louis to Memphis and we stopped at this burger shop where they came up to your car to take your order. We sat, and sat and more cars came and went but nobody came to our car. My father was from New Jersey/New York and I guess wasn’t used to the ‘South” so I learned why Black people always had to pack a lunch. I asked why they didn’t come to our car. I remember he never answered and just kept driving.
My little brain computer started putting things together and the more I read, the more I understood. Nothing was wrong with me, something was wrong with white people. My father soon pronounced he would never work for another white man and he didn’t. But as I sit here writing, I can never recall being told why. Too many of us have never been taught what racism is and how we should handle it. We just learn that we are the ‘OTHER’ and you have to work twice as hard to get half as far, You learn early you are BLACK and that means you are not as smart, not as pretty, not as accomplished, not as valuable. You learn, you know how white folks are but you just have to deal with it.
You see most of us have no clue about who we are and what has happened to us. Most of us know more about the holocaust than the centuries of chattel slavery. The pain of our oppression causes us to do one or more of the following:
- Internalize and hate self and become Uncle Ruckus, adopt Stockholm Syndrome where we think of ourselves in terms of our oppressor.
- Totally deny the existence of race, racism or the existence of Black culture and live to assimilate at every level.
- Adopt aspects of one and two-You know some of your history, you understand racism but you–= blame the victim and think that if you just work hard enough all is well.
- You understand white supremacy and know the game and how to play it but never give up your dignity. You understand that if you do not work for nation building among your people you will cease to exist.
Remembering who we are is the entire point of Black History Month but it should be a practice we celebrate everyday. We need to stop being in denial, we need to teach our children what racism is and understand that being pro Black is not necessarily anti-White meaning that there are times to be anti white supremacy to preserve your own culture. Going along to get along has gotten us no where. We need to be honest and take responsibility for our own culture and community and figure out what we have contributed positively and negatively in context of understanding systemic racism and white supremacy. We can’t move forward without doing both.
Being Black is being excellent with a love of self and our people throughout the diaspora and knowing we are the true masters of our own fate. This month read my blogs and together let’s dream a world we have created.