As much as I love being an African-American, there are often many struggles I face in my everyday life. Most of which my friends are not of color, wouldn’t be able to relate to in the same degree if at all. Not to mention being educated, a first-generation graduate, and female at that. Of course, people are bound to say negative things about you regardless of race but in this instance, I want to unpack some of the racist things that have been said to me over the years so hopefully…
Microaggressions and unconscious biases are presented everywhere even throughout our day-to-day routine whether or not they are apparent. A microaggression can be presented in more subtle ways. Comments such as “I’m not racist, I have black friends”, or “when I look at you I don’t see color” is invalidating and don’t make you less immune to race because you have friends of color.
As a kid, my skin was a lot darker but lightened naturally over the years. Because of my complexion as a kid, my classmates would call me “darkie”, “midnight” or even “chocolate” and things of that nature. At first, I thought it was funny because I’m a kid, I didn’t know any better. As I got older, people started to be compared to celebrities such as Viola Davis or Lupita Nyong’o. Of course, at first, I wasn’t offended because they’re amazing women and fantastic actresses, until I noticed I was being compared solely based on our skin color and not physical attributes. That’s when it finally all hit me.
My peers would always ask me about my hair and how I get it to be so long. They would ask me questions such as “is that a weave? All black people have weaves.” Or better yet, “why do you have fake hair? You must be bald-headed…”
Growing up, I was also a very athletic kid. I was very big into skateboarding because I had seen my brother doing it. I even wanted to play football at one point because of him but that’s beside the point. I played basketball growing up, was a thrower for my high school track and field team, and played lacrosse throughout middle school and college. My athleticism was evident so whenever people would approach me the first question they would ask me is if I played basketball. It may not be full-on racist, but it is a microaggression because it is expected that most people of color play basketball. Regarding the track, people would say “it must be because you’re African, that’s why you’re so fast ” Keep in mind, I was a thrower, not a runner.” Big difference.
The comment that made me the most upset was when I moved to East Brunswick in eighth grade, my classmates dared to ask if I was from Trenton, Newark, or Jersey City because I spoke “proper English”. That comment was Insinuating that I had come from an impoverished area while fitting the stereotypical standard of black women being loud, sassy, and aggressive. Although that’s not what was said, that’s what was meant.
How have these comments affected my life, if at all?
I’m not going to sit here and say these comments haven’t affected me at all. Most of the comments made against me were meant to put me down and were simply disrespectful in the form of a joke. I know these comments are not who I am, but I couldn’t help but think to some degree that I fit the stereotypes that were being presented against me.
When I was much younger, specifically in middle and high school, such racist comments would’ve hurt my feelings and caused me to act out in physical and verbal altercation. As I’ve grown older and more mature, I know these comments and stereotypes are not who I am and not the woman that I have become. I’ve come to notice when comments like those are made against me, there’s a sense of jealousy or inferiority. This isn’t to say that I’m better than these people, but it speaks to who they are as a person. If anything, these comments have taught me to always remember who I am regardless of what people have to say or think.
I am the main character, and only I have control over my life. If I let these comments control my emotions, then they’ve won. It sometimes feels as though the more successful I’ll become, the more hate or jealousy becomes apparent. Like Drake once said, “winning is problematic, people like you more when you’re working towards something not when you have it.”