Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blackness (1):The subtlety of the Race Issue

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To be honest, i never saw myself as black until i moved away from Africa. I had grown up in a predominantly black society in that the issue of my skin color was never even an issue at all.
I first knew what it meant to be black when i walked into a lecture hall and the entire row i had sat in was empty. None of the white kids in my class sat next to me for the entire semester. On having a conversation with my mother about school, i told her what had happened to me all semester and i had not made a single friend. My very african mother said "you are there to study anyway, you don't need friends. More time for you to study." we laughed it off both of us knowing very well that what she had said was only a feeble attempt to boost my morale.
One day, my father and older sister came to visit and as we walked down Eminonu, a lady looked at us, yelled "negro" and spat on the ground. I was stunned. My father laughed it off and told me she did not know what she was doing. We Africans tend to laugh off racism towards us at first because we do not know how to respond to it, we are not African-American, we do not wear the scars of slavery on our skin. Racism to us was such a foreign concept, we had no notion of it, we did not assume it could affect us, coming from where we were coming from and we were never thought how to respond to it.
A few years later i fell in love with a non-black/non-african boy whom only held my hand when we were alone. He never introduced me to his friends as the girl he was seeing and he made sure we were not seen together in public locations. I once asked him if my skin color was an issue and he resulted to being upset at the fact that i would say something like that (of course he had black friends), he told me "he was just not a fan of pda". I found pictures of him holding his new white girlfriends hand on instagram (the most public location) and hanging out with his friends. I am not saying he was racist, i am just saying that race was always a subtle issue for us, like the elephant in the room that nobody wanted to acknowledge.
Race is never an issue until we realise that it is because it always is. Even when we choose to not talk about it, even when we pretend that the store owner is not following just i and my very white friend at the store, even when we pretend that people don't stare and wonder if i am a hooker when i meet my white male friends for breakfast. The issue of race in a society that is afraid to mention race is the biggest issue of all.
Race will always be an issue as long as we keep pretending that it is not an issue, the sooner we face up to it and accept that slavery should not have happened at all and racism is dumb, the sooner we begin to fix what is broken.



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