Franchesca Ramsey and the MTV Decoded team have produced a number of revolutionary, relevant videos within the past couple years on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation. They've conquered issues that people all over the world struggle with each and every day. Last week, while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I stumbled upon a video post from a girl I used to sit by in one of my university gender studies courses. If I hadn’t already deemed this girl’s opinions and posts as "interesting," the title “You CAN’T sound white!” would have easily been enough to intrigue me to press play. Listening to these people of color discuss their own struggles with racial assumptions and expectations reminded me of my own journey to discover that “educated ≠ white.”
As a black girl from the suburbs of Maryland, this entire video is undoubtedly the story of my life. Yet I know I’m not the first or last kid of color to grow up and constantly be compared to their favorite snack time cookie. I'm not the only person to have the fact that you don’t fit the textbook negative stereotypes be presented as a compliment, as if that's something you should wear with pride for all your white friends and their parents to see.
At 7 years old, my love for the written word was almost too obvious as told by the Britney Spears diary and the tattered copy of Matilda I would drag around with me wherever I went. At 13, I wore brand name polos (popped collar never optional), plaid shorts, and obnoxiously matchy bows in my hair while secretly blasting Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance from my video iPod on the back of the school bus. My entire adolescence was spent listening to people tell me over and over again that because of the music I listened to, the way I dressed, the honors classes I excelled in, and most importantly the way I talked meant that I wasn’t really black, although my complexion and entire ancestry begged to differ. Such backlash doesn’t just come from those pale skinned and too ignorant to understand that it’s physically impossible to sound like a color. The majority of the criticism was unsurprisingly born from those who looked most similar to myself.
“When you hear it in your own community it’s an insult because it’s another way to say you don’t belong here.”
There is an entire generation of black kids who continually struggle to find balance because, to us, we’ve never identified more than with the concept of “every black ‘you’re not black enough’ is a white ‘you’re all the same.’” Not unlike Franchesca, I was all too often the little girl too nervous or afraid to speak up and out about my interests to others, particularly members of my own family. I never truly understood how much I was an outcast in my own bloodline until they blatantly told me so.
This is how it all starts: a dangerous beginning leading to a tragic ending. We make little girls and boys of color feel like they don’t belong simply because the things that make them happy don’t fit into this tiny box that — ironically — the entire history of white society has been forcing upon us since practically the dawn of time. In leading by such example, we prove to them time and again that there’s only one way to be black. We limit their choices of who they can and want to be. We suffocate their hopes and shackle their dreams; no need for the academy to limit representation, we’ve already graciously done it for them. So before you throw me or any other person of a color a backward compliment, think about what you’re doing and all the creative potential you’re stifling. And remember, “no matter how I talk, I’m always black” and nothing you say or do can ever change...
In the year 1987, merengue legend Fernando Villalona released the album La Cartita. Among the songs on this album was an ode to the Dominican Republic and Dominicaness named "Dominicano Soy." A prideful song, it features the lyrics, “Dominicano soy, de mis raices yo no voy a olvidarme, soy de una raza tan humilde y tan grande… (I am Dominican and I will never forget my origin. I’m from a grand and humble race). This song has become an unofficial national anthem of sorts, being played in parades and festivals as people proudly sing along and wave the country’s flag. Many who pridefully sing this song are children of Haitian immigrants who were born in the country. However, according to the Dominican government, they do not qualify as citizens.
On September 23rd, 2013, the country’s constitutional court handed down a ruling that would greatly change the lives of many Dominicans. With this ruling, anyone born to non-citizen immigrants between the years 1929 and 2010 would have their citizenship revoked. Because of their new status as noncitizens, these Dominicans faced deportation to Haiti; a country that they’ve never visited or have familial ties in.
As imagined, this ruling was met with great protest, and as someone who was born in the Dominican Republic, I join the many voices who stand against this decision. Although critics have many problems with the law, the greatest criticism was that the ruling was grounded in racism towards Haitians; the people who have played a major part in one of the country’s biggest industries.
My family is from the town Ingenio, Consuelo. Like many other Ingenio towns, Consuelo’s economy was based around the sugar mill. An industry that offered low pay to its workers, the sugar mills were largely avoided by Dominicans. However, many Haitian immigrants who were new to the country embraced the industry. As such, Ingenio Consuelo has a very large population of Haitian immigrants and Dominican-born Haitians.
When I was a child, my parents would send me and my brother to visit our relatives in Ingenio, Consuelo. I still have very fond memories of spending countless hours with my friends, playing games such as fruta y frutanga and discussing what was going to happen in the latest episode of Saint Seiya and Dragon Ball. Often times, we would end the day by deciding whose home we would go to and watch the aforementioned shows. It was during these visits to my friends’ homes that I learned more about them and their families. Generally, their homes all had the same layout as my grandmother’s house (couches covered in plastic, a bottle of Brugal, etc). However, one friend had a home that stood out.
When I walked into his house, I could immediately sense how different it was from the other homes I visited. The aroma in the air was thicker and the decorations that were hung on the walls were something I’d never seen. After some inquiry, I found out that the reason his home was different than the others I visited was because he and his family are descendants of Haitian immigrants. Like many Haitians, his family’s culture and traditions were heavily influenced by African traditions.
After this visit, I began to notice Dominican-born Haitians everywhere in Consuelo. I would walk down the dirt road and hear the beat of African drums, run past a house while playing with my friends and smell the thick aroma that filled my friend’s home. These are things that I think about when I see the images of people being deported out of the only country that they’ve ever known. What’s ironic about this situation is that a large portion of the Dominican population can look back in their family history and find that they have Haitian ancestry, myself included. Recently, I participated in a DNA test and found that while yes, I do have Taino Indian and Spanish ancestors, a large portion of my bloodline traces back to the Benin/Togo region of Africa. After further research, I found that most slave ships that left from this region were destined for Haiti. With my hometown sugar mill’s long history of being operated by hardworking Haitian immigrants, it wasn’t a shock that my family has Haitian ancestry as well.
With that in mind, I can’t help but think of the sheer amount of Dominicans who have Haitian ancestry and aren’t aware of it. The government says that the September 23rd, 2013 ruling was made to ensure that people were legally living in the country, but the reality is that this is the Trujillo-influenced racism of old. It’s no secret that Dominican and Haitian relations on the island have historically been rocky and it's only made worse by the Parsley Massacre of 1937. This ruling will only deepen the divide. Since the deportations have taken place, there have been several reports of people living in camps as what Amnesty International describes as “ghost citizens.” As such, thousands of people are now stateless and do not have access to basic human rights such as health care and the ability to go to school. This is unacceptable. No government should treat its citizens in such a manner and the fact that my homeland is doing this is demoralizing. I’m proud to be Dominican, however, this decision has brought great shame to my...
I love men. I love black men. How could one not appreciate the resiliency, courageousness and fortitude that is present and actually necessary to face this world in its current state.
It's impressive, truly.
However, as much as I love ya, as I much as I appreciate ya, we (women), as an entire collective gender (this is gonna be a bit controversial so stay with it) DO NOT CARE IF YOU LIKE US WEARING WEDGES.
Furthermore, we do not care about most things you like enough to the point that we will stop doing what WE like to do.
At least, we shouldn't.
I appreciate an opinionated human as much as the next gal. By all means, express your wants and desires of what attracts you, what you think about what you want, and what makes you happy.
Here's where you go astray. By no means is your inclination or proclivity for certain aspects of a woman's physicality the law of the land. It's been made clear that men are visual beings and are drawn to the allure of what they can see directly in front of them. In short, a woman's appearance is uber important to kickstart most men's interest. We get it.
Scarily enough, it is the worldly awareness of this notion that encourages the extremes that many women are willing to go to in order to be viewed as beautiful. Oh yes, I know you all love how many women are getting those explosive butt implants (sooooo attractive) and using all that makeup "sorcery" to grab your attention.
No, not all makeup is bad. Breathe and reread before crawling into feelings. Thanks.
The point is that there has to be some middle ground.
Sweeping generalizations have never been my thing. By no means do all men express themselves this way, but I gotta say, the ones that do tend to be the loudest and are heard the most by people who should be exposed to it the least. The men who choose to forcefully holla at women on the streets or insist upon using their Twitter fingers to lambast that which is “beneath” them but laud the very superficial angles of their desire tend to be the ones who are front and center, being just as narrow-minded as they wanna be.
I'm sure there is some way to communicate likes and dislikes without condemning what others DO like in the process. After all, we are positioning ourselves as adults in this world.
If you're able to narrow down what it is that you want out here, awesome. Your preference, though, is just that. Women are not Stepford Wives or robots for that matter. Ok, so maybe you don’t like the idea of that woman wearing wedges, (I promise I don’t understand why there seems to be such a deep demise for this shoe. It is a shoe on a foot for goodness’ sake) but so what? Women will not and should not fit into one mold. Cause that's actually wack.
Educator. Black. A woman. I’m an outspoken introvert. Consummate over-thinker. Sassy and simply complex with the courage of all of my convictions. I will debate you til the death and then hug you when it’s all over. A millennial who feels there are few things better than the 90’s. On the greatest of days, I manage to get all of it on...
“Mommy? I want my skin to be white like yours and not tan.”
This very statement broke my heart instantly. Trying to articulate my thoughts carefully, I asked my daughter why she felt this way. “It just looks prettier than tan skin,” she said. My mind began to race. I started thinking about what would have influenced her to form this opinion. Then it hit me — television, advertisements and toys.
When it comes to racism, it’s fair to say that society has come a long way but there’s still work that needs to be done. Through society's constant messages, brown babies are subliminally being taught that the lighter their skin, the better. From television commercials (which predominantly feature pretty little White girls) to the plethora of White dolls that can be found filling aisles at your nearest toy store, it’s difficult to deny that our society promotes fairer skin.
After coming to the understanding of where my daughter was getting these ideas, I made it my mission to make sure she knew how beautiful she was. I began to compliment her every chance I got. I also made sure that if we purchased any dolls, they looked just like her.
Now, one year later, my daughter’s self esteem is through the roof! I felt it necessary to share my story that so any other mothers dealing with a similar struggle can relate and see the positive changes that occur from a few simple changes in the way we parent. Something as small as saying “you look beautiful today," or even "girly" activities such as manicures or playing in makeup can aid in instilling self-love and certainty. Other options could consist of mommy/daughter time each week (an essential) and lots of hugs and kisses! Emphasizing your daughter’s importance can go long a way. After all, it’s our job to keep raising strong and confident daughters.
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