My father is from a very small town in Georgia. That small town hosted a neighbouring county’s first desegregated prom…in 2014. So this is what he has known his whole life.
I am a bi-racial woman. My father is a Black man from Georgia and my mother is a White woman from Germany. My whole life, I have been running between the two identities, forcing myself into one ill-fitting mould or another. I speak fluent German, I have very European political views, but I have to deal with the reactions to my skin colour at every step of the way.
Many people complain about micro-aggressions, that they are not real or that they are exaggerated. I have never been the victim of overt racial violence, but there have been little things that pile up and chip away at my identity. My questions, of course, are rhetorical.
‘You’re not like those other Black people.’ What are Black people supposed to be like? What other Black people? I realise you are talking about some stereotypical Black person, and you will tell me in lurid detail all your anecdotes, but I don’t want to hear it.
‘You don’t sound Black.’ What do Black people sound like? I have had students tell me that they didn’t know Black people could have British accents. I usually show them a clip of Idris Elba.
‘You’re very smart for a Black person.’ Black people cannot be intelligent? Are Black people not seen as intelligent?
‘I didn’t know Black people could [fill in normal activity here].’ I get this a lot as I am an avid swimmer and surfer. The stereotype of Black people being unable to swim is a purely American one; I explain that Black people in America weren’t allowed into public swimming pools, and are sometimes forced out of their own neighbourhood swimming pools as well. I’ve been swimming since I was three years old.
I am very tired of hearing these; I hear it at least once a week. There is a startling ignorance of Black culture and history, of the richness of it. It depresses me, but does not surprise me. White rules without question, at least in the West. – SDM
If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.