My previous post discussed the cultural differences that I observed in Tanzania. But that was then and this is now. Now it is 2014. I haven’t been outside the country again, and America’s unique dysfunctions on race continue to prevail and frustrate me. The things I’ve been told this week in particular have left me dazed. If I recognize people of biracial/multiracial parentage as being biracial/multiracial I am seeking to become an oppressor of others in the same way that White supremacy has oppressed my community. If I speak up about Colorism I’m making much ado about nothing and lying, as apparently dark-skinned women have just fabricated all these stories. I was told all these things yesterday by people of African descent. Once I got past the sheer lunacy of it my mind went to my BFF Raquel.
In my “Black and Brown” series I shared the story of my twenty-three year friendship with Raquel. For those who may not be up to speed Raquel is Latina. She is from El Salvador and has no African heritage; Raquel is mestizo. So she and I do not share the same background. With that said Raquel would never fix her mouth to utter the words in the paragraph above to me or any other black woman! When we’ve talked about Colorism and identity not once has she mocked or condescended to me about it, accusing darker women of hyping it up. For in addition to being a good friend she seeks to actually understand and show empathy. Raquel has also witnessed Colorism towards darker women herself, perturbed and sickened when AA men have fawned over her pale skin and demeaned black women in her presence. “What is wrong with these people”, she’s asked me multiple times, thrown because she’s had to call someone out yet again.
The father of Raquel’s children is African-American. She knows that I view them as both African-American and Salvadorean. And you know what? She’s good with it! Not once has my ability to embrace their dual heritage been taken to mean they are excluded from my community or that I seek a system that would “oppress” them for who they are.
Raquel and I have always been able to see our differences and point out disparities; that has not kept us from being tight and being allies. When faced with the unpleasantness of discussions with those who may share my color and/or ancestry but little desire to acknowledge and respect my experience the words of my daughters’ namesake come to me:”all my skin folk AIN’T kinfolk!” Raquel isn’t Black but she would hold a sista down quicker than the people of African descent I’ve dealt with the past few days. And one of the most vociferous critics of White Supremacy that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting is a young white man from South Carolina. So the moral to this story is this: back home understanding isn’t always skin deep.