As I observed the reactions to this man and his choices, I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. I began to question myself. Why wasn’t I flagged up to the front of the line? What was wrong with me? The only distinguishable factor of his selections was their skin tone. They were all mullato.
Growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where our society is painted primarily by the stark differences between the rich and the poor, it was easy for me to overlook the racial constructs and barriers that existed alongside economic ones.
Having fallen victim to subliminal messaging my daydreams turned to hopes for lighter skin. I had been bred to believe that a lighter skin tone would carry acclaim, beauty and success. And I believed it to be true. I speak now with much hesitancy because such thought is dangerous, self-destructive and volatile; not to mention shameful. I didn’t understand how then I had drawn these conclusions I just knew that it was as it was. And it was accepted by populace which surrounds me without question.
At least three shades darker than most of my peers, I quietly envied their golden caramel complexions. Growing up my hair was so grenn (coarse) that at the tender age of 7, my mother decided to chemically process in hope of making it more manageable. It was constantly compared to the grit and grime of a foutbòl (soccer) field, while my lighter toned cousin with cheveux sirop (hair that flowed like honey) was continually admired and coveted.
I still recall my friends and I proudly tracing our ancestries back to the European colonizers as if it were the highest of achievements, and completely ignoring our African ancestry as if our chocolate pigment didn’t voice a worthy narrative. At our delicate ages, maybe we were simply mimicking the voices of those who trained us, our conceptions of this world learned from society and enforced by each other.
And these are the dominant narratives of society?
Growing up, racism always felt so removed from the realities that bore weight in our everyday lives. It was never really spoken of or given much mind. My understanding of race was entirely skewed. My circles of acquaintance scoped the whole spectrum of races, so of course things of such nature had little to do with me. I was comfortably “color blind.”
I believed I maybe had bigger problems to solve; hungry toddlers with out-stretched hands, sun parched skin, and orange hair which boar witness to frail malnourished frames dejectedly hangingoff the side of our cars.
But as I look back racism:
- an irrational bias towards members of a racial background, the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races
Prejudices, discrimination, and antagonism were directed against someone of a different race even when the race was no different than my own. My irrational biases brought torment; admitting that to this day ,I subconsciously struggle to judge by the 'content of one’s character" rather than the "color of ones skins "brings me confusion. I have become my own jailer. Perhaps my struggle is accentuated by a society that believes that it has transcended race,that has achieved some vaunted post racialism.
Within a society where representation of so-called perfection cloud the media outlets and educational sectors how can one expect to see the world as anything else? How can we choose to be of equal worth as my lighter counterparts, when all that I see dictates a different narrative?
Chuckling I shake my head in embarrassment, I must be slow for subjectively internalizing these outdated truths. ...The loud groans were no longer aimed at the dark immigration officer as my daydreams had once again got the best of me. “ Next in line!” I looked forward in surprise. The little lady that had patiently stood behind me had jolted past me in annoyance of my delayed response.