For some people the very mention of blackness and all the things associated with it can cause some eye rolling. Why do we still need to talk about colour in 2016? Can’t we just forget about our differences? Slavery happened so long ago can’t we just move on and be colour blind.
No we can’t
Thanks to social media there has been widespread attention on issues that in the past would have been ignored. Shootings, police harassment and racism have been caught on camera and shared until people were forced to pay attention to it.
Thanks to social media there are more articles and blogs dedicated to the black experience that offer a forum for discussing what we haven’t always said out loud.
When I wrote my book For Black Girls I wanted it to be a book that encouraged young women and in particular young black women to be free to choose who they would be. I wanted to share a few lessons from my own life that could help others and give them insight. I also wanted to speak against some of the negative ways I see media taking our young women.
I expected to have to defend why I wrote a book called For Black Girls. My husband chose the simple title and I immediately loved it. Because he’s not black he didn’t understand why I was a little hesitant.
I asked him “What if people are offended by the title? What if they ask why I wrote a book called For Black Girls?”
He said, “Tell them because you’re black.”
I laughed and thought about how much more complicated the whole thing was. I knew that would not fly for everyone.
I felt that people would assume I was being exclusive for some particular reason. Surprisingly not too many people asked me about my title choice. A lot of people are looking forward to reading it that are not young black girls which is great.
What I didn’t expect was to have to explain to people that the experience of a young black girl would be different from the experience of another young girl from a different race. People asked why in particular a book for black girls instead of all girls. Having worked with girls from all backgrounds I do believe that girls of all colours could receive insight on things like self-acceptance, relationships and time management that I speak about in the book. Males and females could probably relate to many of the stories or realizations I came to about my hair. But when it comes down to it I had to call the book what it is. I think it would be dishonest to pick any other title for the book.
The truth is our experience as black people in North America is different from the experience of other North Americans. It’s not my fault that it’s like that. It just is. It amazes me that people find that so hard to believe. The experience of a black man would be different from the experience of a black woman in North America as well. My experience as a black woman in Canada is different because I’m second generation Ghanian descendant. Take me to Ghana to live and voila more differences. I could go on but as you can imagine the shared and different experiences of black people in North America are vast.
The fact that people could have a problem with my book title sounding exclusive and maybe even racist is a sad reflection of our society. I’m well aware that a book called For White Girls would not be so easily received. It’s kind of funny to think about it. It would sound so racist. However, the reason anything with the word white in it might automatically sound racist is because for so long the term “white” was used to be exclusive. “Whites only” bathrooms, schools and restaurants were a reality in many parts of North America only a few decades ago.
Another thing to pay attention to is the homogenous way our society is sometimes presented. It’s easy to feel invisible if you are a person of colour. When another colour or culture isn’t overtly mentioned or referred to, then most of the time you can assume it is for “everyone” except… the movie may not have anyone of colour in it, the toys may not look like you, the commercials won’t be directed toward you and the clothes won’t fit your unique shape. The hair accessories may even get tangled in your hair and the “nude” colour clothing won’t be nude for you. This was my reality growing up.
Don’t get me wrong, things have gotten a lot better but this is still a reality for many people. Right now I’m not complaining I’m just pointing out what it’s like to live as an invisible person in a society that you consider yourself a part of. It’s great to see business people and inventors start to clue in to the needs of the population. I’m looking for more inclusion for all ethnicities. Many black entrepreneurs have risen up to take care of the unique needs of black people. One woman I met online has come up with a unique design swimcap for black hair that I can’t wait to get my hands on. http://swimscarf.co.uk/
I recently heard of another woman who has designed “nude” dancewear for all shades and colours. http://www.mahoganybluesapparel.com/
So yes we need to speak about colour because people still don’t realize that there are unique differences to be celebrated. We all have our own perspectives and we can’t assume that people see things the way we do.
We need to speak about colour because there are many black children growing up in this society feeling like they should be ashamed of their colour and hair.
We need to speak about colour because internet racism is high and widely accepted.
We need to speak about colour because people refuse to acknowledge the open racism and villainization of black people that still exists.
The conversation needs to stay open and hopefully you are someone that is adding something meaningful to the discussion.