Thursday, April 2, 2015

Being Black in the U.S.

Being Black is not as easy as you think. That's a joke.

With this "B" post, I hope to help readers understand how I approach people and how they approach me.

You see, there is no way of 'hiding' the fact that I am Black. I wouldn't want to. When you see me, you know. I look at people and try to see their eyes and personality and how we are going to connect and on what level. I notice color. I look for trust. I look for kindness. I look for similarities. I look for differences. I look for honesty. I'm like Robocop or the Terminator but, corny as it sounds, I feel love and forgiveness for everyone. Who am I not to?

When my husband first showed his co-workers a photo of me, a couple of them said, "She's Black!" and his response was feigned shock. He grabbed the picture back and with eyes wide, said, "She is?!"and it only made me love him more.

Look at him and you'd say...White. His father was a dark Cuban, his mother, of Scotch-Irish descent. My husband had auburn hair and pale skin growing up. Now, his hair is gray and everyone sees White. Cubans come in all tones, like Americans and Africans.

When Caucasians look at others, they know they are Caucasian and begin to assess one another based on clothing, grooming, handshake, whatever. When I am seen, the first thing is, "She's Black." and along with that comes whatever experiences, exposure, rumors, whatever is in the news that week, attempts to remain nonplussed, or bewilderment as to what comes next. Blacks are being 'blamed' for whatever is done by the President of the United States as if he called us first to check-in! The sad part is when I'm looked at by other Blacks, that's also the first thing seen and then it's either a positive or a negative, too. At times, I think we are all harder on ourselves, than who we believe is our enemy.

This can be a source of amusement, bemusement, or frustration depending on the stage on which it occurs.

My entire childhood was spent with other Black children telling me "You talk so proper!" as if it were a confusing problem. Non-blacks were accepting of me in High School because they would say "I don't see color." which would make me think they weren't seeing me. At first meetings I loved to read the confusion on their faces of "She didn't sound Black on the phone!" which is one of my favorite tricks, actually (Naughty me!).

By 40, I really couldn't care less what anyone thought about anything. Ah! The freedom of aging! Don't fear it. Embrace it and all the perks that come with it!

I've spent a good portion of my life being the only Black in the room (DON'T say it, Americans!), at the party, in the meeting, on the plane, in the theater, or the restaurant. People of all colors have attempted to push me to represent an entire RACE of people just because I happen to have more melanin in my skin. I've had men try to pick me up thinking that I was a "sure thing" and try to take liberties they would fight against if it were done to their mothers or sisters. I've been proudly told by people that they get darker than I do when they tan, that they didn't know Black people but watched us on T.V., that we could tan or burn, that I was the first one they'd ever met or had as a friend, would either compare me to whatever Black woman was famous at the time, congratulate me in that way that shows they didn't believe I could do whatever it was, and, yes, call me names outside of my given proper name, of course.

My life has been spent meeting all types of people in and from all types of places in the World. I have learned that if I respect them, usually I will receive the same respect back. My father commanded respect through his demeanor after growing up in the Southern States of the U.S. and he got it. He never shared every story of the times he didn't but know that he was spat upon, called names, and denied progress in his life due to the amount of melanin in his skin as an adult and not only in the South.

Please don't think I'm bitter about any of it. Some of my best friends...(Haha!). It's life with other humans who've had their own experiences with other humans. I won't be placed in the position of speaking for everyone with more melanin any more than I would ask a Caucasian, Asian, or African person to speak for all who have more or less. It's not fair and certainly results in disheartening inaccuracies. 

My skin is brown. My hair is kinky. My nationality is American. My religion is Catholic (a WHOLE 'nutha story!). My race, according to the U.S. is Black (a color). Or sometimes African-American (long time since my ancestors were there). I'm a 'sister' but in Florida, I'm also called "Mami" by Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, et al. Why I don't have a multiple personality is beyond me! However, I'm still not as confused as poor Raven-Symone if you've been keeping up with her. I'm going to take a wild stab at the idea that she might have faced racism from both sides of the fence in her life and has decided not to be either because of the pain of rejection. No one has a monopoly on racism.

Despite the usage of race and ethnicity in the same way, there are some actual differences in the definitions. It would be nice to all recognize the difference and use them appropriately if we ever seek to have any semblance of peace among us. There's an article explaining how race is "your biologically engineered features. It can include skin color, skin tone, eye and hair color, as well as a tendency toward developing certain diseases. It is not something that can be changed or disguised." I will add, it does not define you as a person and ethnicity is not a statement of what color of skin you have as shown by all countries and many varied people of different colors (skin-tones). Example? There are people of Asian descent born and raised in places like Peru. They are Peruvian. Correct?

Read more: Difference Between Ethnicity and Race | Difference Between | Ethnicity vs Race

Watching Trevor Noah's standup act recently made me think of this again. He's having a hard time 'justifying' being chosen as a host for The Daily Show. Really? After considering all the racial problems we have had in the States that I've had to 'choose sides' about, he summed it up as an 'outsider'. As a mixed race person, here he is Black. He also noted, we had a mixed candidate for the Presidency but now have the first "Black" President. Nailed it.

I have hope for future generations who will force the U.S. to remove the 'check one' boxes of race because they will be inapplicable, nor will it matter. There will be no way of breaking it down. I hope I'm around to see that Census.



  1. That would be cool if they took that question off the census with race. I'm white, my son loves black women (I hope anything I saw is not offensive, forgive me if I do). He's had 3 significant relationships with 3 black women (he's 26). One even lived with us for 6 months (long story, she got kicked out of her mom's house). She taught me about how challenging hair can be. Not because of their color but because of other aspects about them, I was glad that he broke up with two of the women (the one that lived with us they were together for about a year), then there was another lady that he was with for 3 years before they broke up, and now he's with another one since August. I liked the other two as people, but they were not a good mix for my son, nor him for them. Absolutely love the one he is with now. She was really worried about meeting me and my hubby for the first time because of her color, afraid we would reject her (never). Sad thing is hubby's parents would have rejected based on color and son's previous relationships we would never have been able to share with them; they have both passed within the last 4 years. My point, in relationships color doesn't matter to me. In friendships color doesn't matter to me. And I do hope I'm alive for that census too.


    1. Thank you for your comment! One of the things I've warned people who say they have specific 'preferences' about their mates (i.e. must be tall, black or white, Catholic, whatever) is that once you do that, you cut an entire population of people you could be happy with out of your view. Being open to all people increases the odds of finding 'that' person. Thanks for sharing and blessings to your family!


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