There are so many moments in my life that I can look back on and realize the Universe was watching.
One such moment, I’ll never forget, occurred when I was 19 or 20, and a group of loud teenage girls bombarded the clothes section of Walmart where I’d been looking for something cute to wear to a party. Of course, already, with their behavior I felt old, and some how in denial that my friends and I had ever acted that way. Though, with certainty, we did on more than a few occasions.
Now nothing about this moment was spectacular, they weren’t being rude- just loud, and I honestly can’t remember how many there were, or anything particular about them; until I happened to look up at one of their shirts and my blood boiled. This gorgeous girl was parading around in a shirt that said “I’m black and I’m beautiful. Get over it!”
I remember seething. Here I was, this lonely girl without a family or culture, without the ability to show pride about anything from my blonde hair, to my blue eyes, to my Irish roots, and this teenager wore a shirt that would have gotten my ass kicked if it would have said what I am. I didn’t say anything, but I remember being so mad at that girl. Not because she was black, but because she was allowed to celebrate her blackness in a way I’ve never been able to celebrate my whiteness.
Sometimes, I still don’t understand it or the complexity of it. My culture is made fun of, turned into green beer and drinking games once a year, and pillaged for cereals, basic chicks, and any dude who’s unsure where his family came from. I’m also part Native, though I don’t claim it nor speak it usually because you can’t see it in my skin, but my Great Grandmother on my father’s side was from the Iroquois tribe Onondaga. Though there’s no proof, I fully believe the marriage was not a consensual one, therefore I feel the best way to honor her is to not steal from her further. I’m white, with a passion for Native culture, but I will never use her forced situation to gain favor with any tribe or tribunal. But, I digress.
My point is, I cannot stand up and be proud of my skin. I cannot be proud of the fact that I’ve passed on my blue eyes and my blonde hair to my most favorite person, because then I’m told I’m racist. I can’t wear certain clothes modeled after certain cultures, not in mocking, but in respect and adoration. I am not sure what, as a white woman, I have that I am allowed to celebrate.
Except…that’s not true, is it? As a white woman every day is a celebration for my skin, isn’t it?
You see, it’s hard to recognize when you’re so used to living it, when it’s become an everyday occurrence, but my skin is not just celebrated- it’s pined over. I’m in magazines, movies, commercials; makeup brands cater to my whiteness while relegating pigmented skin to fighting over three shades. My skin is in award shows, history books, The Oval Office, banks, loan officers, judges, politicians, D.A.s. My skin is celebrated in classrooms, in affluent neighborhoods with good schools, and on Wall street. My skin saves me from being murdered by badges, forgotten by media, polarized by racists.
My skin bleaches the minds of those around me, adding a level of trust and security that my fellow melanin rich friends will never experience. My skin, not my sex, has washed and scrubbed the atrocities out of the past to prove that we are superior and that the black man is criminal. My skin allows me the privilege of not having to seek truths behind lies, because the world looks just like me already.
The only place my skin is not celebrated is in our prisons, where its privilege somehow releases it from justices at far greater rates than others. My skin has kept rapists from seeing jail time, pedophiles from serving life sentences, murderers from being charged, all while crafting blind eyes to the other crimes committed in this skin.
I don’t need a shirt to tell me I’m white and beautiful, because when Tarte, a famous makeup company, released their foundation range of 25 shades- only three of them were pigmented. And when customers complained, they said, “oh I’m sorry- we didn’t know we were supposed to release more for the black folk”.
I don’t need a shirt because when Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, the Judge said: “it’s okay, fam, shit happens.” Yet, Willie Simmons, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison in 1982 for stealing $9 in Escambia County, Alabama. He’s still there, and it’s 2020.
I don’t need a shirt because Felicity Huffman only got 14 days punishment for bribing school officials, test proctors, and literally paying to have her daughter’s scores changed, yet Tanya McDowell, a black woman, got 5 years for sending her son Andrew to the wrong school district while they were homeless.
I don’t need a shirt because in 2006, my boyfriend at the time tried to murder me. When the police arrived, he was covered in blood, and in an agitated state purposely trying to illicit a “death by cop” moment. With 12 armed officers surrounding him, two with shotguns, and the rest with pistols, they managed to tase him- render him incapacitated- cuff him and haul him away. The officers had no idea if I was alive or dead, yet, but Matthew Willi, a white man, walked away unscathed. Yet, in 2020, Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, slept peacefully in their home when police broke in and started shooting- killing Breonna in her bed. The officers, serving a no-knock warrant to the wrong home, arrested Kenneth when he used his registered and legally bought weapon to defend against the intruders who had not announced themselves as police. Breonna’s killers are free, and Kenneth remains locked up- possibly for life.
I don’t need a shirt, because to have one would be to rub it in the faces of those this country deems beneath me, and I am not about that life. I don’t want to celebrate my skin anymore, but my personality- the things that make me who I am.
So, just in case it’s not clear- this blog supports: BLM, Trans Women are Women, LGBTQ+ and Queer Folk, Trans Men, Women’s Rights, Pro-Choice and Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.
Black Lives Matter. Know Their Names.
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