People look at my father, and his appearance alone makes it hard for him to go unnoticed. Large, male, and, most importantly, Black. He calls attention to himself simply for the fact that his skin is dark. People look at him, and they think African-American male. For good or for bad, that label draws attention to itself. It means they either see him as a great threat, a formidable opponent, or a respected ally. Either way, he is noticed.
Then people look at me. Small, female, and Colored. Yes, my skin is brown. But it’s not “too” brown, according to society. The few people who actually look at me see me and are suddenly reluctant to place me in the African-American category; I am noticed, but not in a healthy manner. They want me to be something else, something more. They see my loose, bottle-blonde curly hair, and my light mocha skin complexion, and they think I have the potential for something else. They want me to be exotic—a word that implies that African is not exotic enough—and they want me to be beautiful—which also implies that Black is not beautiful. Insulting notions coming from a race that was literally born from my people.
And, because I am female, the bulk of my interactions with mankind rely on others perceptions of me. To most, my physical attributes are far more valuable than the mind my body encases. To them, saying that I am Black, that I am African-American, means that I am nothing more than another statistic in an overlooked subdivision of the patriarchal white America. But, to say that I am something “more,” something exotic…well, my status level would be minimally, but undoubtedly elevated in their broken, heavily misguided system. Something they—“they” being those who see themselves as the top tier of this crumbling food chain—would consider a great honor for me and my kind.
So, what does it truly mean to be a female Colored-American?
It means I can see through your shit.
I don’t want anyone’s misconceived notions about what is better, or beautiful, or below standard. I don’t need people telling me who or what I am—“You’re definitely predominantly Black, though; you’re skin is dark” “You’re still a woman, though; I’ll end up making more than you in the long run”—at all hours of the day to help boost their feeble sense of entitlement.
I am not here to be your marker against which you measure your success; I am the success.
I’d like to see any one of the small-minded individuals who constantly dish micro-aggressions to those they want to continue to perceive as below them achieve anything with the systematic oppression me and my kind face on the daily. To us, even the smallest victory feels like a war won, because that’s exactly what this is: a war. It’s not loud, like an atomic bomb exploding over Hiroshima, but it’s certainly not quiet, and it’s not discreet; but it’s happening.
Maybe the racism has picked up a notch on the side of the oppressors lately because they can feel their empire—the same empire that was built on the backs of my people—rapidly crumbling beneath their feet.
And when the playing field is eventually leveled, they will finally come to understand what an advantage their entitlement gave them.
Because me, and my kind?
We’ll be leaving them in the dust.