“The only difference between African slaves and European or British slaves was that the latter could run away and melt into the population. But if you were black, you were noticeable.”
i have always wondered what it was like to be white.
i have always wondered what it's like to navigate a world that is not suspicious of your presence, to be able to blend seamlessly into the background without much notice. i wonder what it's like to not represent everyone that looks like you. i know, white people have their own issues & crosses to bear, but growing up as a Black girl in America, i was keenly aware that no matter where i went, or how i behaved...eyes were always watching and judging.
early on, my parents--slightly militant--told me i always had to be on my A-game. they instilled in me an intense determination to achieve, not only for myself, but for each member of my family (and race) who did not have the opportunity to "make it." if i didn't make a good grade in school, my grandmother would tell me about the trouble she had attending school in rural Arkansas. she would say how she had to wake up early to work the cotton field, go to school, and come home to continue working the fields, all while she and her family faced racist Jim Crow laws. she would recount having to attend segregated schools in subpar environments, all to illustrate her point that i had it so much better and had no reason at all NOT to achieve.
i have always carried this idea in my head, that black people must be better than. while i know that i am not able to represent all black people, i do know that for some, i am the only (positive) representative that they see.
i was listening to NPR the other day and Toni Morrison was discussing her new book, A Mercy. her book deals with issues of slavery, but without the slaves being "raced," meaning, she is taking a look at slavery across racial lines, before any sort of racial implications were used to delineate types of servants. as i tried to wrap my mind around the idea of being "raced," or rather NOT being raced, i listened to This American Life as they traveled through Pennsylvania with both presidential campaigns. unsurprisingly, Obama volunteers were finding some resistance to Obama, not on issues of the economy or the war, but solely on the issue of race. in September, The Wall Street Journal reported
Barack Obama’s race could be the deciding factor if the presidential battle remains a dead heat on Election Day, according to an Associated Press poll released today in conjunction with Stanford University. The survey finds that many white Americans — particularly Democrats and Independent voters — still hold deep-seated reservations about African Americans.
The survey of 2,227 adults has a 2% margin of error and showed one-third of white Democrats hold negative views of blacks.
as i listened to both broadcasts, read countless articles, and overdosed on political news, i started to think about ways in which race is applied and used as a tool suppress achievement.
there is no secret that this country was founded on the basis of systematic white supremacy, which coldly annihilated the indigenous population and treated Africans as chattel. instead of bestowing the right of citizenship to enslaved Africans, our forefathers thought up the three-fifths compromise, which essentially resolved that African-Americans were less than human. despite great gains in civil rights and racial equality, this institutional supremacy has continued to permeate all aspects of our society. the inequality found in our schools, our communities, and our legal system are just reminders that the playing field is not level.
as we sit on the cusp of possibly electing an African-American president, i am both hopeful and suspicious of what this will mean for our nation. will we use this momentous act as catalyst to once and for all deal with the racist systems still in place in our country? or we will act as if all has been healed, and that the election of Obama will represent reparations for all that has been done to America's blacks?
as Cornel West once stated, "A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue." despite all of our imperfections, i am still hopeful that we can/will continue this honest dialogue and move past the issues that continue to impede our progress.