When I first wrote this I was a few days away from my 31st birthday sitting at home with a diagnosis of burn out dissecting pieces of my life experiences. It is interesting and perhaps something for me to think about that I delayed putting up this post. Even after having written this piece, it took me a good 2 months to pluck up the something (not sure if it is courage) to post it. It feels like I had to think about the political correctness of this post and the implications of putting it up. Hmmm. None the less, here it goes.
The last couple of months of 2016 have been a trying, testing, teaching and faith building period for me. There are so many encounters I have had over the last years of my life, so many experiences, mistakes, achievements and opportunities that have taught me about life and myself; some in magical ways but mostly random and analytical worthy ways.
So far the one that is on going at present and the one that sits at top of mind the most is the issue of the colour of my skin, your skin, our skin. So many different, big, little, significant and insignificant moments have happened in the last few months that have made me realise that race actually does play a role in life…whether you like it or not. I grew up in a racism “free” country, raised in a racism free home and so moving and working here has been a series of tough lessons I have had to learn. My encounters with people of my race and other races have challenged my view of myself and how I relate to the issue of race. Fact remains, I am Black and I need to embrace it. I say this in a non-racist way because I am not racist. I also say this with an empowered voice because experiences keep showing me that you need to empower yourself and embrace your skin colour. Whatever it is. Black. White. Yellow. Pink. Red. Whatever.
I have been shocked to learn that as WOMEN of colour, we have to run harder and faster than women of other races but also than men of our own colour. I have had to realise that actually, my Blackness may not be an issue to me, but it is to others. And this has been the most mind-blowing thing that I am still struggling to get my head around. I have moments where I question what that means for my Black children. Should we decide to raise them in this country, does that mean they will have to learn these hard lessons earlier than I had to? If we don’t raise them here, does that mean that they will lead sheltered lives like I did and live in a bubble of no colour? How do I even decide or know which is the best thing?
I have recently learned that being a professional is no longer about being good at what you do, but it is coloured by your race. I have been privy to many conversations where the issue of how clients decide on a professional is mostly influenced by race is argued. This had me thinking about how I pick my GP or Dentist, how I feel about the race of my child’s teacher, and how I decide whom to trust. This is a difficult one to think about because the truth is that we, myself included, consciously or unconsciously, make decisions based on that. Obviously this is something that has (I imagine) always been there, but I am only really starting to think about it now. I know of people who only use professionals of their own race, and others who believe that a particular race is better than another. If we take the semantics out of it and be blunt – some people (Black and White) believe that White professionals are better. This is a historical thing but it is also a real thing. It’s a real thing when Black people are selected into academic programmes purely to meet a quota. It is a real thing when you are a Black professional and you have moments when you question if you were hired for your skills or for your quota meeting skin colour. It is a real thing when as a Black student or professional, you are made to feel lucky to be in the position that you are in. It is a real thing that we need to change.
What bothers me the most is that this is a possible reality that my daughter will one day have to face. I really do pray that by the time she goes to university and becomes a professional in her field of choice, the playing ground will be fair and more welcoming of females, let alone women of colour. I do not want a future for my children where they are made to feel lucky to be in certain positions that they actually worked hard for and deserve to be in because of their skin colour. I do not want a future for my children where they are made to feel uncomfortable or less Black because they choose to have friends or romantic partners of another race. I do not want a future for my children where they cannot express their opinions or have difficult conversations about race. I want a future where a person is a person. As parents, it is our job to create that future for our children.
So embrace your gender and your race and colour. Just not at the expense of others.