November 6, 2012 by Keisha || The Girl Next Door is Black
At times I feel very unwelcome in my own country. I’ve worked and continue to work hard. Once I left my parent’s house to attend college, I was fully on my own. I worked an average of 30 hours a week while taking 12-15 hours a semester and still managed to have an active social life and hold leadership roles. I’ve struggled through jobs that I didn’t like or that didn’t pay well, usually both at the same time. I am an active contributor to American society. I volunteer my time, I give to charities, I give money to the homeless. I pay what seems like more than my fair share in taxes. Yet, there will still be people who look at me and assume the worst.
There are people who claim racism in America doesn’t exist anymore. We’re “post-racial.” That black people don’t have it hard. That slavery ended over 100 years ago and we should stop complaining. We’ll just ignore the Jim Crow laws, segregation in schools, and voter disfranchisement that occurred after the end of slavery. Sure, we are not enslaved in chains. Yes, things have improved. Yes, I and other blacks across America now have the right to vote. But, in some areas America is still largely segregated. Voter disenfranchisement still happens today and largely impacts people of color more than not. We have the revisionists who want to teach children that slaves were treated well and happy and that slavery had its positives – one of them being that black children then were more likely than today’s children to be raised in a two-parent household. Need I remind you of the mess of Hurricane Katrina?
Ever heard of implicit racism? How about systemic or institutional racism and the far-reaching impacts of it on longstanding institutions like standardized tests that may be biased toward people of certain socioeconomic groups? Or the influence of a teacher’s personal bias and the effect it may have on how well their students do. Or economic discrimination? Or implicit bias and how it affects how doctors treat their black patients? These are the less visible forms of prejudice, bias and discrimination that black people experience over the course of our lives that are easily overlooked by those who don’t walk in our shoes.
Sometimes it’s exhausting being black in this country. I even get angry sometimes. But, god forbid I’m angry or I’ll be seen as an “angry black woman.” I can’t just be angry: I’m black, female and angry. My emotions aren’t my own. They belong to a stereotype. But, more than angry it makes me sad. And sometimes I cry. I hate to admit it, because I’ve been told and taught not to show weakness, not to let ignorant, hateful people get me down. To live my life the best I can to prove people wrong. But, sometimes I get tired. It’s tiring feeling like you have to be the best, because if you’re not, someone inevitably will think, “Yep, just another lazy n-.”
Some people claim not to see color. That’s not helpful either. We AREN’T all the same and it’s disingenuous to pretend we are. Some people say, “Why are black people always bringing up race?” Because other people WON’T LET US FORGET IT!
Why is it okay to ask if black people are voting for Obama because he’s black? Is the thinking that once we see a brown face, we lose all critical thinking skills and are blinded by color? How well did being black work out for Herman Cain? Cain, a Republican, didn’t receive wide support from black voters. Could the black support of Obama have more to do with him being a Democrat, as black Americans have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates since the days of Truman?
Colin Powell, seemingly respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, was recently reduced to his skin color when John Sununu questioned whether his Obama support was based on raced. Colin fucking Powell. Are you kidding me?
If you posit that black people are voting for Obama because he’s black, what does it say about the majority of white men who support Romney?
Why do some people assume that a black person would vote for Obama because he’s black and not because they’ve made an informed decision to choose him between a choice of two candidates? What does that say about the person who makes this assumption and their view of black Americans?
Do some people think there is an underground black hotline where millions of us meet monthly to discuss how we should all behave, think, feel, act, speak, so that we embody the monolith some people seem to think we are?
I thought the one-drop rule was supposed to be a thing of the past in this country? Yet, people still refer to Obama as black when in fact he’s biracial. Yes, I’m aware that he self-identifies as black. But, which came first? Other people treating him as
a black person or him self-identifying as such? Do people forget that Obama is half-white? Can we be real and admit that people in this country still socially categorizes people based on skin color?
Will there ever be a time in this country where people don’t assume members of a racial or ethnic group will behave as one large block?
Can I just have an opinion on something or someone and not have someone attribute the reasoning for it to me being black?
Why is it that some people think whenever the topic of race is brought up by someone of color that they are “playing the race card?” I can’t speak for all people of color or all black people, but games with race aren’t games I care to play. If I bring up the topic of race, it’s not to play some damn game. I’m certainly not “winning” anything holding a black card, especially given the latest AP poll findings that a majority of Americans harbor negative views of blacks.
I have never claimed to be a victim.
I have a college degree.
I pay my bills.
I have never asked for a handout, unless you consider taking out student loans that are like an albatross around my neck for tens of years a handout.
I don’t immediately assume that anyone who looks at me oddly or is rude to me is racist.
I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. You try living in America as a black American for 30+ years and see how it changes your view of the world.
I often think of expatriating. Not in the idle way some people threaten when their candidate doesn’t win the Presidential election. I mean, for real. When I travel internationally, I’m also thinking, “Could I see myself living here for years?” I’m tired of feeling like the country’s punching bag (do a google search for “black people are…” and see what autofill comes up with as most frequently searched).
Americans watch black athletes play sports, listen to music performed by black people, laugh at black entertainers, but seemingly ignore the contributions of the hardworking black people in finance, law, technology, science, education and blue-collar jobs who are not in the public eye, but quietly work hard to achieve the American dream (whatever that is these days) and see little to no representation in the media. It’s as though the rest of us do not exist. No, instead we get to see the crime we commit, the depressing statistics about health and wellness and the oh so sad outlook for single, educated black women. We get to hear positive rappers like Common called a hoodlum just because he’s a rapper. We get to hear Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States reduced to nothing more than her behind. It’s disrespectful. She is the goddamned first lady of the United States of America and you’re a Congressman. Why are you talking about her backside?
Is there a place I can live where people don’t make these asinine assumptions? Some place where I can just be Keisha?
There’s no hate in my heart. I love learning about different cultures, trying new things and opening myself to new experiences, which sometimes is scary and intimidating, but overall I think I’m a better person for it. It’s why I travel. It’s why my friends and I could model for a Benneton ad. I wish more people were open to experiences and people outside of their comfort zone.
Race and ethnicity should not be a taboo topic in a country like the United States where we truly have people of all kinds. Let’s not make excuses in the face of blatant or latent racism. Racism exists in this country, let’s not deny it, pretend it’s a thing of the past, gloss over it or act like only people of color ever discuss it. We’ll never get past it if people insist on living in denial and get uncomfortable talking about it. Instead of accusing people of “playing the race card” or living with a chip on their shoulder: think about it, engage in a dialogue about it and examine your own beliefs.