“Yes, of course I am. How did you not know that!?!”
“It never occurred to me I suppose”
“But all my family are white. EVERYONE in my family is white!”
“I never gave it much thought; you’re just you.”
“I’m the only black person in our friend group. I’m the darkest person you know, how on earth didn’t you register that there’s something different about me?”
I’m incredulous at this point. We’re sitting in a pub near our college, neither of us could be bothered to go to our afternoon psychology class- beer is a much more appealing option. I’m with a friend who’s known me for long enough to have met my family. This is before I adopt my sisters. He knows that the Rwandan genocide had an impact on me- or so I thought.
“Well, I just don’t really see skin colour. It never occurred to me to notice I suppose because you’re you. Another pint?” And just like that this conversation is over for him. When he returns with our pints of wife beaters (Stella) the conversation has moved on.
This little snippet has stuck with me now for such a long time. Initially, once over the shock, I thought my friend was woke. It almost implied that I was in the wrong for expecting him to pick up on what makes us different. After all, we are all fighting to be judged by our actions and not physical appearances. The reality was though that I felt dirty. Dirty for questioning his observation skills, but more importantly I realised how unseen I was.
The luxury of not being impacted by your gender or colour, that one can live in a world where your actions and integrity count is reserved for the white man. No one else has this privilege. Imagine being able to just be yourself, because I am everything that society has placed on my kind, and I have to think about this continuously. From the innocuous comments of “You speak well, are well presented” to the more offensive “oh your hair looks professional” because I put a weave in, I do not get to be because I am my skin first and foremost.
I was called rubber lips by people, it was taken as teasing, rather than the racism that it was. I was too young to defend myself but it made me cry and wish I was white. I’d always been so proud of who I was until I came to the UK. In my last post on this subject, I discussed my fear of white people. The difference though is power. Any bigotry I have inside myself has no power.
I’m not racist but, I’m tired of my experiences being overlooked, being colour-blind or unaware of others difficulties adds to the problem. I want people to be better. What will you do to make the world better?
I just want to add that now as an adult I absolutely love my skin!