Friday, November 18, 2011

How I See the World as a Black Woman--Part I

How I See the World as a Black Woman—Part I

In light of some of the issues that I have faced lately and seen around me, I thought I would spend some time on my blog talking about this. What does the world look like through my eyes as a black woman?

You’d be surprised (or not) that my view of the world is not overly different from the view of a white woman. One thing that I’d say first and foremost—every person is unique. Making generalizations about all people of a certain group is fruitless, inaccurate, and fallacious. Because everyone has their own story to tell, their own life to live, even if they might be the same color, ethnicity, from the same neighborhood, or even the same family. My sister and I are very close. But even we don’t see things the same way. So, that’s my caveat here.

I think the main difference I might have from a white woman’s view of the world is that I am more sensitive about race issues, and rightly so. Being a black person in America, I am not allowed to bury my head in the sand. Race comes into the picture a lot more than it should. I learned this the hard way.

When I went to High School in Dallas, TX, that was my first real personal acquaintance with racism. I was treated differently from whites because I was not white. I was assumed to be less intelligent, and of less value. It was automatically assumed that I couldn’t handle academically rigorous subjects, even though I have always been considered intelligent and done fairly well in school. I started reading when I was four, and I read at an advanced level. I would have been put in 2nd grade as a kindergartner, but I couldn’t do the math (this math block became a psychological thing, because I have found later in life that I love math and I am very good at it). When I started high school in Illinois, I was in honors classes, despite the fact that I had missed at least two months of school in eight grade because of a hip problem. When we moved to Dallas, my counselor (a white woman) automatically put me in the vocational track, even though my family made it clear I was going to college and there was no question about it. I didn’t dispute this, because I didn’t know better. I trusted her to do right by me, because she was an authority figure (na├»ve of me). It was only when my new counselor, a black woman intervened and changed my courses, slotting me into honors courses, which weren’t difficult at all for me. I thank her to this day for believing and fighting for me! I like to think she helped a lot of students in the same way because she cared about each one, regardless of their color. I even had a teacher who told me to my face, she didn’t know I was so smart. Yeah, that’s crazy, but it’s true. Also, there was the issue of how the administration treated black students. You could stand in the office for at least five minutes without being acknowledged. Every white person who came in got acknowledged immediately. I wasn’t being sensitive about this. It’s a fact.

I won’t even go into all my varied racial experiences at college. Suffice it to say that I got a lot of looks that said that I didn’t belong at the school I attended (one of the big public universities in Texas, not the one in Austin, but one of their rivals). Other than that, the anonymity of being only a student id number was very freeing for me. It didn’t matter what my color was. I got the same chance as everyone else. I relished that. And vet school, more of that jumping through hoops. More justifying that I deserved to be here, and I didn’t get her because of Affirmative Action. Yes, racism exists. It hardens a person, especially if you let it. Personally, I try not to.

How about in the literary world (a special interest since I am a die-hard bookworm)? Why is it that I can’t see a person who looks like me on a Harlequin cover unless it’s under the Kimani line? Maybe I want to read a Harlequin Presents with a black person. I like those stories, and maybe I don’t like the kinds of stories they do in the Kimani line. Why do I have to read those just to read about black people? Why do blacks have to have their romances segregated? Why is it that any books written by a black person automatically end up in the African American section, most of which at Walmart fall under the Thug Lit category? How is that right for a writer to be judged just because she’s black? It’s not!

What about urban fantasy and paranormal romance covers that show a light skinned woman with straight hair who could be white, when you open the book and the character is brown-skinned with curly, African hair? Why does this offend whites to have a black person on the cover? Why, on earth should it offend you when you are reading about humans having relationships demons, vampires, werewolves, and other varieties of paranormal creatures? As a black person less worthy than a demon? This is 2012 people! It offends me that it offends them. Do I not belong here in America, and deserve the same freedoms? Hey, my family has been here over two hundred years, if you count my Native American ancestry and my African ancestors. I am just as American as most whites, and probably more American since some of their ancestors came over after mine did. I don’t say this to be contentious (since let’s face it, we were all immigrants at some point), but these are the things that go through my head when I am smacked in the face with pervasive racism.

As far as ambitions and desires, I would say they are the same as a white woman. I want to be loved, have the same marriage prospects (any man I choose regardless of his race), have children and a family, have financial security, have emotional freedom, be recognized for my contributions to the world, like whatever music I want, read whatever books I want, and have my interest require validation only by me. I want the same freedom to be me without having to qualify everything I do with, “As a black person..” It shouldn’t matter. I should just be able to exist and be me! Instead, I have always felt I had to jump higher, work harder, strive more, just to prove I deserved what I worked hard for. It gets tiring. It does.

Yes, I can look at myself as a human being. That’s what I want to do, first and foremost. Actually, I think of myself as Christian first, and a human second. I like being able to look at myself so simply. I like that freedom. At the end of the day, I think a white woman would want that same freedom.

In my next post on this issue, I will focus on the Woman aspects more. This post is more focused on the black person aspect.