*listens to Blk Girl Soldier by Jamila Woods on repeat*
I’ve rewritten this post so many times over the years. All I want to write about is my experience with racism, the denial of my heritage by myself and others, and my journey to complete self-acceptance and pride. This journey has been more than 10 years in the making, and this is only the beginning.
Every time I came to the computer to write, everything that came out was negative. All the stories of what I’ve been called, how I’ve been treated, and what has been expected of me as a woman of colour. Since the internet is particularly unforgiving when it comes to dredging up the past, I hope that this post shines brightly in my social media timeline.
However, today (and forevermore), I choose to see the positives and let them outweigh the negatives. I choose to grow from my experiences and let them fuel my strength to push on. I choose to accept myself completely. At the dawn of a new presidency that may threaten who I am, I embrace my culture, race, and heritage. Wholly. Completely. Proudly.
See, I wasn’t always so proud to be black. Or brown. Or mocha. Or whatever espresso beverage one would call me. (pleasedontdothat.imapersonnotabeverage)
I’ve been the token black friend. I have a degree in Token Black Friend. I’ve been described as “the whitest black person.” And to be honest, I used to be proud of that. I would claim my white roots over my black roots. I felt accepted in society by claiming this. Because I felt that black wasn’t me. Black was negative and unintelligent and unwanted.
Because I didn’t speak in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), listen to hip-hop, or fit into any other black stereotypes, I was therefore “white” to my friends. And the never-said, oft-understood social cue was that “white” was more refined and tolerable than “black.” “White” was probably the easiest label to put on a girl who didn’t fit nicely into a predetermined social structure. I highly doubt that any of them would come forward today and say that. But that’s okay. I’m not looking for redemption for the past. I’m striving for strength for the present and future. And using all of these microaggressions as fuel.
However, I wasn’t just the Token Black Friend™. I’m English and Jamaican on both sides, which makes me one of two things in the mind of someone who is unfamiliar with Jamaican culture and heritage:
1. It makes me exotic. *cue the hardest of eye rolls*
2. It makes me a stoner and a Rasta. *I direct you to Lonely Island’s Ras Trent music video for further research* *also another hard eye roll*
To me, being part Jamaican is being a part of a people who have a rich history full of long struggles and triumphs over greater powers. Being Jamaican means having fantastic food at family gatherings, playing cards, and having conversations in patois with increasing fervor and volume. I’ll be damned if someone is going to reduce my heritage to Cool Runnings, marijuana, and yah mon. Yuh can tek dat an gwaan bout fi yuh business.
In this journey to proud self-acceptance, I’ve stopped straightening my wild curls. I stopped relaxing my hair in 2008. From there, I went to wearing my hair natural during the summer and straightening it during the winter. Now, I’m going all natural all the time. I’ve spent countless amounts of money and time trying to find which cocktail of products will tame my mane. It’s so frustrating because my hair has so many weird properties and so much frizz, but I’m committed to the process. Because I’ve learned to love my curls. Finally. Shoutout to SheaMoisture and satin bonnets for being there for ya girl.
I am #woke.
Not because it’s trending.
Because the deck is heavily stacked against us and society doesn’t seem to want to do anything about it until it becomes an inconvenience. Until it disrupts daily life. And even then…
It took me a while to come out of all this self-denial and realise that hating myself wasn’t going to make me a healthy part of society. I had to realise that my denial and dismissal of my race, culture, and heritage gave others permission to do the same. Not anymore. And not ever again.
This is my #BlackGirlMagic. Taking the negatives and making them positives, just as my Heavenly Father does. Celebrating the beautiful skin I’m in and everything contained inside of it. Standing next to women who look like me and don’t look like me and being strong in our diverse, yet unified story.