Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Do I Sound Like...?


I don't write about racism a lot (at all really) because I've been blessed (knock on wood) - though standard humanitarian behavior shouldn't be special....but it is - not to have experienced the harmful kind of racism that many have to endure around the world. If anything, the opposite was true. I had the advantage of that "positive" side of racism called exoticism. I grew up in a European world where Black women were covered (and fetishized) as beautiful exotics. And the darker the skin, the better!

It wasn't until moving to the US that I began to feel a different experience. There have been no major incidences, but year after year, I find myself more entrenched in the victimization of Blackness. Example: I never had an opinion on interracial relationships before, yet now I somehow am conditioned to resent the sight of a  Black man with a White woman - even though I myself have dated interracially my whole life. And I havee even heard myself say, "Well, it's not that I choose White guys, it's that Black guys don't choose me." Completely false. ...Then there's colorism. I laughed confusedly at the animosity between the Wanna-bes and he Jiggaboos in Spike Lee's School Daze way back in the day, but now suddenly, I'm 100% #TeamDarkSkin whenever debates with #TeaLightSkin come up. (WTF?!) America does that to you. We are far too race conscious in this country. I could go on and one with examples...

All that being said, let me make this clear: I live in a very open society and I'm so grateful for that. But every now and then, weird/funny/irritating/uncomfortable/ridiculous little racial moments happen. And today one did. I work at a very conservative financial institution. During a phone call, a business partner mentioned that he hadn't met me. I said, that I thought we had and he assured me he hadn't saying, "No, when I came to your office I met a Black woman". I had to hold back my own laughter as I replied, "Yes, that was me." (I'm the only one!) My voice clearly didn't match his idea of the sound of Blackness or the image in his memory. He wasn't being racist, nor did I take offense. Should I have?... And was it some strange back-handed compliment? (Is that in and of itself racist?) And what does Black sound like? And am I "code-switching"?

p.s. He was embarrassed and made sure later to work into the conversation that he judges people by character and not by race/religion/etc; that he doesn't care what people look like, Black, White, Blue, Purple (why is it always crazy colors that follow?).

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