Growing up in London was cool for what it was (we were free spirited, our front doors remained open as we played outside, there were no police on the street and we rarely saw people littering and spitting in public) during the 80's and 90's but, I say that having grown up in the East End. I've no experience of what it may have been like to grow up anywhere else.
I was 'introduced' to racism at a very young age. The mini play area behind where I lived (during the mid 80's in Canning Town) was the spot! Most of the children in the area would bring their bikes, 2-wheel roller skates, barbie dolls, Polly Pocket toys and we would generally have a lot of fun until our parents called us in for dinner. One day whilst playing with a pair of white non identical twin sisters, the eldest of the pair asked me if my skin is "black because of the sun" and if I would look like her "when the sun goes away". I remember a physical feeling that didn't feel nice and looking back, I recognise that what she said made me feel uncomfortable and really sad. "No, I'm just brown", I said. We were about 6, or 7 years of age. I rarely went to the playground after that, opting instead to play on the balcony of my then home. I never told anyone, not sure why. This is actually the first time I've shared this...
You see, the thing with children of the 80's (in the area where I grew up) is that we were innocent. Perhaps too innocent. Nothing was easily accessible, crime wasn't close to home (or if it was we never knew about it). We played with the neighbours' children inside their home with our parents thinking nothing of it, school was formal and teachers used books and the chalk board to educate us. We sat together with our families during mealtimes, we were occupied with arts and crafts and encouraged to read for the purpose of knowledge as well as fun. So, it's possible that very innocence is what drove the elder twin to share her curiosity with me about something she saw that was different to herself, which she had yet to learn about; a case of innocent ignorance?
Today? There is so much information that is readily available and within reach for anyone, anywhere, at any time to access and divulge! Sometimes, that can be a great thing. Other times, not so much.
I'm done with pretending racism on the whole doesn't exist on the scale that it does and that it doesn't happen within same race groups. The amount of times a black man has referenced my "light skin" as being "not really black", or "not black enough". Usually born from having their advances rejected, (SOME) black men would ask if I'm "too busy ******* a white man to notice" them; am I "a honky lover"? I, mean, really? What flipping century are we living in? Why do these things still happen? Why?!?
(SOME) black women can be equally horrendous with their same race racism too. "She thinks she's too nice because, she's light skinned". "Your eyes are too light. You ain't no black girl". "Listen to the way she speaks, though. She ain't really black. Don't know what she is" - those are a few of the more tame comments I can share.
"I DON'T WANT TO BE BLACK ANYMORE"
I did not want to be black; a black female, black anything. I didn't (and don't) want to feel pressure from 'my people' to conform to a label they themselves didn't seem to understand nor be committed to. I don't want to 'get behind' anything based on the colour of my skin if it actually goes against my morals and beliefs. I refuse to get involved with something that doesn't feel entirely legit simply because, you and I share the same skin tone!
Black History Month is a brilliant example of how disillusioned (SOME) black people are. Yes, let's all elevate one another by selling to each other at the highest possible prices (then shade, side eye, or talk bad about anyone who doesn't buy anything) instead of just coming together for a hearty celebration of the achievements of black people from centuries ago until this very day. Choopse! No other race has made me feel embarrassed to walk in the colour of my skin, or inadequate; unqualified for 'the role' as though I have no right to be what I identify as based on a combination of both my heritage and upbringing. None as much as my fellow blacks - men and women!!
DEFEND and PROTECT
Authenticity, positivity, hope and prayer. Real talk! Rather than stoop to the level of an individual who has no idea why they have taken the position 'against you' that they have, I choose to accept whatever their views and opinions may be for exactly what they - a reflection of all that is wrong with them and everything that is right with me.
Now, as a grown, super independent, courageous, good, kind, loving woman, I couldn't love my complexion any more! I, mean, what's not to love about being tanned all year round? LOL!!!! That said, before my skin colour, I am a woman and before being female, I am a human-being. I just happen to be brown skinned and the colour of my skin tells you nothing about the person I am. My shade is simply an identifier. It doesn't have any labels attached.
We're all broken, damaged, searching, needing, struggling, wanting, striving, hurting and then some. We each remain students of life as we know it and the best way, I think, to get the most out of the free education that life offers us is to remove the blinkers and walk with both an open mind and an open heart. Free yourself from the chains of ignorance. Life is way too short to walk around blind if you have the ability to see. Do not take your sight for granted.
I do, honestly, wish, we could / would all get along. The world would be such an awesome place to live and life itself would be golden which is what we all want. Isn't it?