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A little secret about me 8 November, 2009

Posted by silentpyjamas in inflammatory!.
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Sometimes, I wish I were a white girl. Not because I think white girls are better or prettier or something. I love my skin color, my features, my boingy hair. Sometimes I wish I were a white girl because I could go hide, in a far-removed white community away from the specters of racism and self-hatred. I don’t hate my blackness, but sometimes I’m encouraged by other black people to do so.

What brought this on is a little journey I took online this evening to find ways to teach my niece to love her hair. That’s her in the flickr feed on the sidebar. She has gorgeous hair. It’s curly and springy and it’s a beautiful color and it fits her just right. She would rather look like Hannah Montana. She doesn’t care to see the new Disney princess movie (I hate Disney Princesses for the record, but I think The Princess and The Frog might be a neat film) because the princess is black. Where is this coming from? My sister and I don’t teach her these things. We don’t ever use the phrase “good hair” or tell her that her hair is a pain to work with. We don’t ever tell her that white is prettier but she believes it. It hurts my heart so. How do we fix this?

So I began this little journey tonight, to find information. To find ways to reinforce to her that SHE is beautiful and she is more than the sum of her assorted parts. I found some great blogs which exulted inner beauty and the idea that every type of person has his or her own beauty which simply cannot be compared against others.

Then I ran across this thread which answered questions I never even really considered asking or wanted to know the answers to. I managed to make it down to the bottom of the first page before I left. “So what?” I thought. Kooks abound on the web and who’s to say that’s not an entire comment thread full of trolls?

My Google search term was “teach little black girls to love their hair” and I kept running across various posts about the new black Barbie, one of which I finally read. Some of those comments…wow. I don’t really know what to say. I didn’t even know the phrase “these people” was still in use and I was pretty stunned by this particular comment which I found barely decipherable:

“So, da baby mommas is don gettin all wiggly coz dey gots straight hair. Hoo, boy. Dats dis crim in na shun! Dey not only ones with black hair. Ever see Indian from India. Dem mommas knows non thing.”

What IS that? Is that even necessary?

Ignoring that I moved on to a post with a very awesome video linked and a GREAT comments discussion about hair in general and a bit of the differences between the hair types of different ethnicities. It has the amusing title of “Attention Black People with Jobs” and I quite liked it and felt buoyed by the discourse. Don’t get me wrong, some of the comments on the Barbie article were good, like the ones saying that Barbie is pretty completely unrealistic in comparison to any race/ethnicity of people. That I can deal with.

What I was not prepared for was this whopper of an essay which I kept seeing links to in my search results. I wasn’t even sure why it cropped up so often until I realized about 3 paragraphs in that every fifth word in the article is “black” or “blacks”. It’s written by a schoolteacher who wanted to share with the world what savages we negroes really are. I was taken aback, flabberghasted, aghast, and at a loss for a reaction. I still don’t know what to think about this and I haven’t even read the whole thing. For those who are interested, it’s contained in a blog post by Marty Nemko (who did not write it) and it is entitled “What is it Like to Teach Black Students?” Now I haven’t read the rest of Mr. Nemko’s blog because I was trying to find a link to this essay that wasn’t on some insane message board or on some racist website. I can’t say anything about Mr. Nemko’s politics but the essay is contained there. For the record, I search by the name of the essay and hoo boy I learned there are sites out there where people really, really express their hatred. A few kooks on the internet indeed. It looks like there are a lot of kooks. Do they live in my town? Do I pass them in the store? Is one of them the guy who only grimaced at me when I smiled at him in the grocery store? Did he feel, as one person did in the Topix post linked above, that blacks (including myself) look like apes?

What a scary world we live in. A world where my six year old niece is full of self-loathing for a reason my sister and I cannot fathom. A world in which a schoolteacher, who is a sort of person I always envisioned loves children and sees the potential in each, can write an essay in which he absolutely excoriates pretty much the entire black race. Am I to believe there are scores and scores of parents out there that don’t give their children what is commonly known as “home training”? Or am I to believe that there is a teacher who, upon seeing students of the brown persuasion, automatically associates them all with savages?

I’ve BEEN looked at like that. I’ve been told that I’m a credit to my race. Been told that “I wish more of your people were like you.” I’ve been called a “house nigger” and “high yellow” by people of my own ethnicity while from the lighter persuasion I’ve heard that I’m the “kind of girl it’s okay to have fun with but you don’t bring her kind home.” I’ve been told that I “talk white” and that my parents are sellouts because they worked really hard to buy a home with a pool. That I’m a sellout because occasionally I entertain relationships with not-black men. That I’m a sellout because I read science fiction or that I’m ghetto because sometimes I wear my hair in twists which resemble braids. At the same time I have encountered such wonderful people of all ethnicities who are open and warm and who don’t judge by those measures and I should be happy and thankful, and I am, but it stings. It stings every time I realize that no matter what I achieve, no matter what President Obama achieves, no matter what all those black people in space have achieved, we’re still niggers and that is all we will ever be in the eyes of way more people than I had ever imagined. That cuts down to the bone, and to know the echoes of that pain in the voice and eyes of a young girl is like the realization that the knife is made of salt.

There’s no end to the amount of despair I feel right now. I want my niece to grow up to love herself, to know she is an intelligent and beautiful young lady and that she has the potential to do as much as she aspires and applies herself to. I know someday she must hear the dreaded N-word and someday she must come to us asking what’s so wrong with her just because of the ethnicity she was born into. How can we tell her that there are people in the world, a lot of them, who will never see past that? People who will never think of her as the girl who can draw and read wiring diagrams or the girl who wants to fold proteins or the girl who enjoys science fiction but only if it asks questions. People to whom it does not and will never matter one whit that black people get degrees and doctorates and can be the president because deep down inside we’re all monkeys, right? God, I am so angry right now and so in pain. What the fuck, people?

So yes, that’s my dirty little secret. Sometimes I wish I could look, from a removed stance, and see the things that exist with regard to race from a position of noninvolvement. I think a white girl is about as racially and sexually safe as you can get with regards to issues of color, ethnicity, and privilege. And no, I don’t think this is exclusive to black/white. It’s ugly everywhere and to everyone and damn, I swear one time I thought that someday, it might go away.



1. Suw - 8 November, 2009

That’s awful, hon. But sadly, all you can do is rise above it and teach your wonderful niece to do the same. There’s prejudice of all stripes pretty much everywhere. Hell, I even had a black guy make fun of me because I’m blonde during a gym induction (he was the instructor!). My mind boggled at that one. Sadly, some people are racist, sexist, ageist, religionist, and all sorts of other unpleasant -ists. The internet gives them room to find each other and reinforce their own views, but it also gives the rest of us a chance to support each other too. Focus on the good, and try not to dwell on the bad.

2. Crista - 15 November, 2009

One of the saddest things in the world, to me anyway, is that in this country we talk about how we’re (collectively? or just white folks?) defeating racism, and how things are so much better — and yet in reality, it’s just becoming sneakier, more insidious, less obvious. It makes my skin crawl.

When my partner and I went to vote in the last election (and we live in a liberal island of Pennsylvania, which is surrounded by an ocean of conservative ideology), we were surrounded by like-minded people, most of them graduate students, who were so excited to feel like we were going to make a difference for a change. All of that hit home when we saw our local neo-Nazi asshole, sporting swastikas and holding a tee-shirt (on a hanger) that read “Keep America White.”

I was shocked that he didn’t get his ass kicked then and there. It wasn’t until after he voted that someone started to heckle him, but it ended without serious incident as he got into his pickup truck, flying Confederate flags — no joke — and drove away.

As much as I was disgusted by this guy’s existence, I look back and think maybe it was good he was there. We need reminders. We need reminders because those of us living in this weird liberal white middle-class college town have forgotten that there are still people out there who believe lynch mobs are a good thing. We sit back and rest on our laurels every day and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware of race (and sex and sexuality and age and class, blah blah blah) and then we go on pretending like race doesn’t matter, when clearly it does — when clearly there’s a history and a legacy and beautiful, smart, funny, compassionate people end up feeling like shit for being themselves — because of something the majority seems to think has disappeared.

The internal stuff kills me too. We have it in the queer community — the internalized homophobia and sexism (and I know it’s not the same, but maybe it’s a point of convergence, this self-hatred). Sometimes I feel like we’re told that there’s only one acceptable, legitimate way to be a woman, or to be a lesbian, or to be whatever. I think the same thing happens with race and ethnicity: the internal discourse is that there is only one way to be black or white or Italian or Jewish or whatever, and it’s such complete bullshit. No one should have to conform to some ridiculous essentialist notion of identity. That, in my opinion, would be a crime against humanity.

3. hilary - 25 December, 2009

I came upon this post by accident while searching for slippers (haha) but I wanted to post that I’m a white girl and I wish that I had kinky hair so it would dread so beautifully! I am jealous of your wonderful hair!

Lovely entry, very telling. Thanks 🙂

4. marsjan - 1 February, 2010

An apple is an apple and a human is a human…but most human dont know that they are all te same. It’s a sad world. You wrote a beautiful article! thanks for that. Another human

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