When I was creating my “About” page for this blog, I had to really think about whether to mention my age (I’m 49) and my race. My ultimate conclusion is that the most important thing about me is that I am human and of the female sex. Species and sex say the most about how a being functions in life.
But so many in the US take one look at me and form a preliminary opinion because I am African American, and because I am African American, I tend to see things from a particular perspective. These attitudes are not inherent to mankind but rather are manmade.
Our President Obama is the poster child for American post-racialness. But although we are nearly the same age, I doubt he has experienced America as I did growing up. I suspect there’s a difference between being an American with an African parent like Obama and being an American with roots in Africa and only three or so generations away from slavery, like me. Born and raised in the Northeast, I was not in Indonesia but rather in the hood staying away from the windows so as to avoid stray bullets during the riots of 1967. As a 7-year-old, I didn’t really understand the racial complexities of the situation, but during that time I cultivated a fear and distrust of the police that hovers beneath the surface even today.
A couple of years after that, I was called a nigger for the first, and frankly, the only time–to my face that is–by some white kid who had his mother’s full support. I remember the moment of feeling my blackness sitting on top of my skin like a bas relief. Of course, I’ve experienced racism many, many, many, many times since then. Yes, America, this is what it’s like to be black: Although we hate to do it, black people deal with racism as an integral part of life.
Yet despite all of that, I have never thought of race as something that hinders what I can do or achieve. For this attitude I have to thank my mother who was so strong and ahead of her time. Race was never a topic of discussion (the down side was I had to figure this out on my own) but education was always a major priority: Getting a college degree, which I have, was never a question. She exposed me to all types of literature, art, and music–and as a result, I tend to draw from my inner reserve rather than rely on my outer appearance.
So, to summarize, I’m black enough to feel guilty about not mentioning it here before, but post-racial enough to want to remind you that being a black women is not a monolithic concept. I’m wide open and willing to go where this process leads me. You may or may not know what is going to come out of my mouth next.
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2009.