This past in America has been...tough to say the least. We as a country have had to face the harsh reality (once again) that there is a divide that still exists between different racial groups. I have personally found myself going through an array of emotions from anger, fear, pain, anguish to humbleness and ultimately some semblance of peace.
As each news story broke out I was reminded that having a darker skin tone in America is an issue for many people. It seems crazy to me that I even have to type those words in 2016. As each story rolled in along with videos of brutality against black people my heart was broken and I was full of anguish. When there was retaliation against police at a rally resulting in the deaths of four officers I once again felt overwhelmed with emotions.
Why is this still happening?
My own history with race is very complicated. So complicated in fact, that I'm still trying to unravel its implications. I am half Jamaican and half East Indian, first generation to be born in America, raised in predominately white neighborhoods and schools. I never fit into the white world or the black world of America. I never fully fit into either of my parents cultures either...
But doesn't matter because according to my skin tone I am just a black woman living in America.
Over the years I've been forced to see the reality of racism...because I've experienced it first hand. For the longest time I never saw skin color. I know it sounds unbelievable but it's true. I never saw myself as different than anyone else but I could always sense that I was on the outside. However, as a young girl, I never thought it was because of my skin color. When I was in middle school I had a rude awakening by a 13 year black American girl who asked me why I was sitting with "all of these white kids" (who I simply had class with) at the lunch table. That was the first time I really noticed that I was different.
Then when I was around 15 or 16 I remember wondering why none of the boys I had crushes on ever liked me back. Why was I the only girl who seemed never to be asked out? Why did I always feel so unattractive?
I went down the list:
I was nice
I was smart
I was a good friend
I never got in trouble
I was fun
I was always being called "cute" so I know I wasn't hideous
So why? I remember the day I looked around my Latin class and I realized that I was the only black person in class. I was the only black girl in all of my classes. That was the one thing that was different. From then on I became much more aware of things. I remember one day when I was at a sandwich shop and the lady taking my order was so rude and mean towards me. I had no idea what I had done to her. I gave my order respectfully as my mother taught me and stepped aside when I was done. When the white woman behind me gave her order it was like the staff person totally turned on her "nice" switch. I was completely taken aback. I then went into denial. It couldn't be because I was black, could it? I went down the list again.
I was nice
I was smart
I was a good friend
I never got in trouble
I was fun
I was always being called "cute" so I knew I wasn't hideous.
I remember on my prom night my date, who was white, and I went to a really fancy place for dinner. I remember that when we left my date was so upset and I didn't really know why. He went on and on about how we weren't treated the way we should have been. I remember my date saying it was because we were a mixed couple. I remember being so surprised. All I could keep thinking was "what kind of treatment was he used to?"
When I got married to my husband who is half Ethiopian and Black American (talk about African American in the truest form) I was submerged more into the black American culture and began to see the struggles of a black man in America even more clearly. From business, to opportunities and unfair treatment in the workplace. My black female friends schooled me on the struggles of black women with darker skin and coarser hair vs lighter skin and "good" hair.
Then it became clear why I when I tried to join the all black American dance troupe in college the girls were so terribly and unashamedly mean to me.
Over the years I've heard racist comments, insensitive words, and been called out because of my skin tone on several occasions. I've been called the "n" word, rejected by blacks, white, Indian alike. I've also been spoken to in several languages - and then dealt with the angry black lash of not speaking their language. I've been mistaken for several ethnicities and even been made to feel like an "exotic object" rather than a person.
If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked "What are you?" I could have paid off my student loans in one fell swoop.
So I know that no matter who says "color doesn't matter" is dead wrong no matter how you slice it. I've been forced to see that color does matter. Your ethnicity, inherent value, the fact that you're nice, smart, a good friend, don't get in trouble, tons of fun (essentially HUMAN) doesn't always matter first for some people even today.
As I watched the news this past week all I could think of was what if that was my family? What if that was my husband, my brother or my son? Hearing news like this reminds me of my past. It reminds me of the reality of our country's past...and it hurts.
So what could I do?
I expressed my feelings tactfully on social media, I engaged in conversations, I reached out to friends to talk out my feelings.
But that didn't really help me.
I tried to pray and read my bible. I tried to feel the feelings that a good Christian woman should feel. But that didn't help me feel any better either.
It wasn't until I decided to get real before God that any comfort came to me. I sat in my room and I cried. I ugly cried to God. I just stopped "trying to be something" and got raw. I wrote in my journal. I wrote in poetic abstract words and let the Holy Spirit guide the outcome. I just poured it out on paper not worrying if it was proper or "Christian" or tactful.
It's amazing what happens when we are real with our feelings and emotions. When we can express them in a safe place freely without judgement or worry.
I wrote about how I felt no comfort even though I was desperately searching for it
I wrote about how tired I was of feeling such intense emotions
I wrote about my anger and hurt and how I didn't feel understood
I wrote about my pain and the pain I saw around me
Taking that journey to lay out my emotions helped me to come to a conclusion that I would not have come to if I hadn't taken that first step of getting real with God. He led me to remember that there was One who knew exactly what I was feeling.
There was One who knew what it was like
to be misunderstood
to be rejected by his own people
to not really belong in this world
to be judged and treated harshly without reason
...and yet He still calls us to LOVE one another.
LOVE is more than just warm, fuzzy feelings. It's expressed in action. Christ didn't just tell us to love one another - He showed us how to LOVE one another. He lived and suffered and died because He loved us. He loved us even when we were acting a fool out in the world.
Somehow being reminded that the Creator of the Universe knows our pain (all of our pain) finally gave me comfort. And the commandment to LOVE gave me a place to put my focus.
I really want this space, this tiny corner of the internet to be a place where I show LOVE to those who stop by. I want it to be a place of healing and encouragement while you are pursuing your creative endeavors.
How can you show LOVE to someone today?