A black woman and a white man are walking towards each other on a crosswalk….As they approach each other, the white man looks down and smiles while the black woman does not lose her gaze.
I find this to be an interesting scenario. And it actually happened to me a few days ago. I was coming out of a side store and decided to make my way home a little differently. As I approached the crosswalk and pushed the pedestrian button, I waited for it to change. Across the street I spotted a good-looking white man in a suit. I didn’t stare, but I did look. He was clean cut, and he seemed to be real nice. But no one really knows until you “cross paths”. The birdie chirped, signifying that it was safe to cross. Cars stopped somewhat impatiently as we were the only two people crossing at a snails pace.
Now, I observed that as soon as I got close enough to him, he couldn’t help but turn his face to the ground, and he smiled lightly as if to say “hi” but also “I hope she is not still looking at me.”
I am not a psychologist but I do have a psychology degree and I could say several different things about this situation. For one, as a POC, I immediately saw him as White. We people of Color learn very quickly that we are the ones who are black, or Asian, or Spanish etc. No matter what, we are the odd ones out. So I learned quickly that he was white. But what I also think is that in order for him to feel comfortable, he may have had to also think that I too was white-even though I am black as night!
Before you guys get all up in arms about my description, let me explain to you that these are just observations. In the 36+ years that I have been alive, I have witnessed the “white” race treat the “black/POC” race as inferior. One of the ways they do this is by NOT acknowledging that we are POC. We want people to know that we are POC and proud, and that we will become doctors, and lawyers, and teachers, and preachers, and millionaires. The world is changing and the white collars are no longer being worn by just the white people. The collar actually fits us just right 😉
But my observation has been that sometimes, in order to “fit in”, in the mind of the white person, is to see POC as….well….white. God forbid we see for who they are.
Yes, this is my point. How many times have I heard “you are just like us….I see you as just my child-I don’t see color, you fit right in…..you are one of us….” These are NOT phrases we POC want to hear. NEVER. I NEVER want to be one of them. I am me! I am a person of Color and am proud.
I grew up in a predominantly white family. When I say predominantly, I mean that my A-Parents were white. Yes, there were other KOC in the family but when the parents are 1 color, that creates the predominance, even if they are the only white people in the family. I say this because when you are adopted at a young age, your parents become your role-models. So if my role-models are white, I would most-likely want to be like them. My A-parents had 2 biological children. Both were extremely spoiled and entitled. They did receive the better treatment, though they would never admit it to this day. They would never understand what the A-children went through because 1, they were not A-children of Color 2, they were not A-children, and 3, they were too absorbed in their perfect life of whiteness. My parents were the type of people who believed that because I was Black, I could take the pain. A dis, and a compliment at the same time? Remember the article about hospitals not giving the same amount of meds to KOC? Is this part of the stereotype, that “black don’t crack: and white man can’t jump, therefore they need more meds in order to jump and blacks can just grit their teeth and bear it?
When I was about 12 years old, I was walking in the grass and we had a tree the had leaves with needles attached to them. I was walking barefoot and I stepped on the leaf and I screamed so loud I think the angels even covered their ears. It was not a “pleasing sound”. I remember screaming for a long while, maybe 3mn or so. I was on the ground, holding my foot in my hand, rocking back and forth. It hurt. It hurt a lot. Pain and I were not friends. But as I saw my white A-parents walking out of the house to attend to my needs, I noticed that they were walking quite slowly. They were taking their time. I felt as if they didn’t even really care too much that I was hurt. I remember this like it was yesterday. My A-father whispered in my ear “come on, you are Haitian and black, you’re fine”. From that moment on I felt I had to live up to my Haitianess. It only made me feel less of a person.
So, because I was haitian, I was not allowed to feel pain? Because I was haitian, people would not come running when I’m hurt? So many questions ran through my mind at that age. If I were not haitian and black, would they have come sooner? Would they have patched up my “owie?”. I will never know. But I think I can guess what the answer is.
When I was in highschool, I remember being one of the few black kids in the class. I thought that I was some kind of disease. The black kids would not play with me because I sounded too white, and the white kids played with me only because I was “exotic” and at the same time they saw me as them. So in their minds, I was white. They didn’t see my color…..when it was convenient for them.
I remember wearing make-up in the 9th grade. It never looked good on me. There seemed to be no make-up that fit my color..nothing. So I would go to school painted in Caucasian. There seemed to be no other options during that time. Never was I told that I look white…but I was always told that they considered me white.
What happens when white people don’t acknowledge your race is that their race becomes superior and yours becomes obsolete. You become LIKE THEM…as if it was something that you always aspired to be. When you become “like them” or they consider you to be “like them” you are essentially being told that you are equal, because you are like them. So white = equal.
I think of the Jim Crow laws back in the day “Separate but Equal” and I wonder if being separate is really being equal. Because equality means we get treated the same way, but not necessarily like them.
I was told one day that my daughter should focus only on English so that she strengthens that. My daughter reads at a 9th grade level in English, and scored at the 8th grade math level after taking an NWEA test in the 5th grade. Because of these scores, we allowed her to skip 6th grade and she is now in the 7th grade. We wanted her age to match her grade as she was held back in 3rd grade because we didn’t feel she was ready; and now she is soaring.
When I am told that my daughter should not learn a 2nd or 3rd language, that she should focus only on English, it infuriates me. Number one, because we are black, we need to have something that is unique, in order to get a job. Unfortunately, even in today’s day and age, the white man will get the job faster, and quicker than a black man. We need to “stand out” pardon the pun. When people tell me that I don’t really need to prepare her for the future by having her learn a second or third language, I get upset. They are not seeing her as a person of color. They are seeing her as them. The person who said this is white, but my daughter is not. Black people unfortunately need to “prove” their worth to the world in order to be heard. When we are seen “like them”, it does not diffuse the situation, on our side, it ignites a spark that often comes out with question marks. We begin to ask whether we are seen as who we are.
Equal DOES NOT MEAN like them. It means respected, seen, and honored. Please white people, see us as who we are…don’t take the “comfortable” route, take the “progressive” route.