As a young girl growing up on an Air Force base, I was fortunate to be surrounded by diversity 24/7. To add to that, my parents are Jamaicans, and never focused our home conversations around race or being a minority.
Looking at my classmates, you could see a rainbow of races and skin tones. Many of their parents were from all over the world. It was a beautiful thing that we never questioned, rather embraced.
As our community grew, several of us were forced in different directions as new schools were built and redistricting was done. In the process, classes were now filled with students who did not come from military, diverse backgrounds.
I remember being asked by a black classmate why I didn’t act black. I was conflicted and didn’t know how to answer the question. I’d never been faced with my “blackness” before.
I thought I was just being me.
After encountering more experiences like that, I became more aware of race.
As a teenager, I was always excited about makeup samples in the mail. I was always disheartened when the foundation samples only included the two lightest shades. Why not the lightest and the darkest?
I also noticed that many of the drug store eye shadow colors like white on my brown skin. I couldn’t understand why the colors didn’t pop like they did on the white models in magazines and on t.v.
Imagine my sheer joy when I discovered MAC and other cosmetics lines that included diverse shades for minority women.
Even in my 20s when my scalp condition made it wise for me to stop getting relaxers, my first thought was, I don’t want an afro.
Why was the thought of an afro so repulsive to me?
Even in my 20s, my standard of beauty had been whitewashed and I didn’t even know it.
Thanks to actresses like Lupita Nyongo & Taraji P. Henson, wearing your natural hair is embraced–and beautiful.
Seeing representation of myself in print and media gives the word minority a positive connotation.
My parents kept me very involved in church. We were a part of a small baptist denomination. When we went out of town for youth trips, I was often surrounded by a sea of white. Teenage girls are always looking for a love connection, especially when they are surrounded by
Teenage girls are always looking for a love connection, especially when they are surrounded by teeenage boys. On one of our annual youth trips, I actually saw another black person. A boy.
As the girls in my group went on and on about all the cute white boys, one of my youth leaders pointed out the black boy to me and asked me about him.
I was instantly offended because he wasn’t cute to me. He was only pointed out because he was black. Did I have to pick someone just because our he was a minority too???
Attending college felt like I was back on the Air Force Base. I made friends with a variety of people based on our interests, hobbies & common classes. I didn’t feel the pressure to connect with people solely based on race. I’m still connected with many of them today.
I feel like one of the lucky ones. Most of my experiences with race have been positive, so those experiences tend to drown out the negative ones.
As a mom raising biracial kids, my husband and I don’t make it our mission to constantly have family discussions about race. However, we want our children to be aware of what’s going on around them and we will teach them to be proud of who they are.
When my daughters were babies, their complexion was very fair. I got asked a lot if they were mine. I was asked by white and black people alike. Initially I was always offended and everyone in my circle heard about it.
Now that they are older, their complexion is darker in the summer and lighter in the winter. They both have a head full of curls. I don’t get asked as much if they are mine, but people often assume that I am a single mom.
Most of the discrimination I face is more in the form of microaggressions. Negative stereotypes about black women get smashed when people find out that I am happily married to a white man, both of our families love us and each other, we are raising biracial children with no identity issues AND we live in the south.
Some people don’t understand why minorities talk about race so much. They think that we are hyper sensitive and take everything too personally. But I guess if you don’t live your life being questioned based solely on race, you wouldn’t understand.
Trust me, I’d rather not talk about race. I’m going to teach my kids that it’s just an adjective–it doesn’t make up who the person is. But unfortunately, the world doesn’t quite see it that way.
And until they do, we’ll keep having conversations.