the POC perspective: culture & confusion

Life of a Black Girl

I’m sure you’ve noticed I talk about the POC culture in this blog, how things are different for us based on how you were raised or the experiences we’ve grown up with.

However, another big part of POC culture is confusion. Think about the term “African-American” – It is known as the politically correct for black individuals, but what does that really mean? Very few of us know our African roots.

 

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Image from salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

 

My mother was born in England and my father was born in Jamaica and when they have thought about tracing their ancestry, they know that they will eventually hit a dead end – not because of lack of documentation, but rather extermination as black slaves had to take on their slave masters’ name thus erasing their history.

 

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Image from Instagram.

 

These are only some sentiments of confusion in black culture specifically. It becomes even more complicated from a bi-racial perspective. This is why I wanted to give the talking stick to someone who also knows the struggles of ethnic ambiguity so I asked Joanna also known as Professional Sad Girl to speak to her experience as a mixed race POC:

Growing up, I started to realize that there was no one who really looked like me. In fact, my parents bought me two dolls when I was born, one white and one brown, because they couldn’t find any that actually looked like me. I didn’t even look particularly like my parents, and my mom was occasionally asked where I was adopted from when we were in public. I spent the majority of my childhood trying to find characters in books and television that I felt like I could relate to in image, with no real success.

 

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Image from Baby & Doll.

 

Racial ambiguity can be pretty lonely. Looking like no one else makes it hard for me to find communities of belonging. Part of this relates to my experience as the child of immigrants: I can’t fully identify with Canadian culture, but I also can’t truly relate to their home culture. Racial and ethnic groups are a great way for POCS to connect with a group of others with similar life experiences, but as a racially ambiguous person I’ve never felt like I could belong within one, or that I would be co-opting a space or identity that’s not really my own.

On one hand, I recognize that I have the unique privilege of evading stereotypes and perceptions associated with specific racial and ethnic groups; sometimes my racial ambiguity and the confusion that surrounds it gives me the opportunity to define myself based on my own personality and values. But that’s only sometimes. A much more common reality I’ve faced is that people treat my ethnic ambiguity like the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter; basically, they take the unidentifiable nature of my race and project whatever they want me to be.

 

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Image from Pottermore.com

 

For example:
• White friends throughout my life have considered me to be a “tan white girl”
• People of Latinx and Hispanic people have spoken to me in Spanish and been annoyed when I explained that I actually was not Latinx/Hispanic/Spanish
• I’ve actually had a man try to convince me that I was lying when I told him that I was not from the Middle East

When I was younger, I really searched for tangible ways to feel a sense of belonging and define myself. Since I attended a dominantly white elementary school, that translated into appearing as “white” and behaving as “white” as possible. The past five years of my life has been a race to reclaim my actual culture, my ethnic ambiguity, and present myself on my own terms while refusing to passively let others impose their ideas upon. I’m still learning and still figuring it out, but it’s a step.

 

xoxo,

A Conscious Black Woman

&

A Professional Sad Girl

ebony & ivory: my take on interracial​ dating

Life of a Black Girl

Hormones are in the air because it’s the most wonderful time of the year! As you may know, it’s cuffing season so I thought this would be a perfect time to bring up another personal topic for me: interracial dating!

As a black woman, especially one in a predominantly white community, it is not a surprise to me that all but one of my relationships (official and less official) have been with men outside of my race. When we look at the history of interracial dating/marriage, it’s an awesome thing to hear that it actually has never been illegal in Canada (correction: this was not so for Indigenous Peoples who had to relinquish their  Indian status in order to marry outside of their race!!) whereas interracial marriage was legalized in the United States only 51 years ago (shoutout Loving v. Virginia!).

Image from FreedomToMarry.com

When I look at my own experience with interracial dating, I have broken it up into 2 subjects:

Am I Being Fetishized or Made Invisible?
a) as we touched on in my colourism post, black women are considered to be the least attractive to males which creates an inherent insecurity. On one side, there are non-black men who say that they’re “exclusively” interested in black women. To me, this is a big ol’ red flag rather than a preference of endearment. Fetishization is a serious problem for POCs so if a guy says he’s “down for the swirl” or anything that indicates his interest in your race rather than you as a person, *clink clink* it’s time to get out (or at least watch the movie).

Image from Mic.com
(if you’d like this hear this entire slam poem)

b) In my past relationship with my ex, I was not only his first “real” girlfriend but I am also a different race from him. So while there was no fear of fetishization, I remember when I first asking if he told his parents that I was black and he said that he didn’t and asked why it would matter. This is where the mixed feelings come in – I don’t want my race to be my identifier, but it is also such an undeniable part of my identity. Of course, he meant no harm by this and had no intentions to keep my race a secret; however, one’s ethnicity changes the way in which society views them and that extends into an interracial relationship and I don’t think he ever got a chance to understand that.


Image from Twitter.com

Can I Be Pro-Black and Date Outside of My Race? 
This is the time old question. Something that’s still debated to this day and that my own family members have brought up when I told them about my white (then) boyfriend. To some people, when you date outside of your race, it means that you’re going against your own race. I don’t believe this is true. There are certain individuals who self-hate and exclusively date outside of their race due to an internalized misunderstanding/resentment of their community as a whole. That is not my case for me. I dated my ex because he made me smile with his vegan treats, awful dancing and amazing ability at a game I made up called Meow Meow, not because he is white. So the verdict is you can be pro-black and date outside of your race. What you can’t do is say you’re pro-Black and date who is not pro-black themselves.

So what my relationships have taught me is that love is love. It comes in all colours, shapes and sizes. Just make sure you always love yourself first 😘

xoxo,

A Conscious Black Woman

colourism in the community: when skinship ain’t kinship

Life of a Black Girl

Today, I saw this:

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Twitter post from @undoalaska.

As a darkskin woman of colour, not only does this hurt, but it brings up a subject that affects many POCs: colourism.

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Image from The Power of Melanin blog.

We all know about racism on a grand scale, but colourism is different as it ranks worth within our own minority groups. As most forms of discrimination, the concept connects to the slavery structure of black people with lighter skin tones working in the house while dark-skinned black folks were forced to work in the fields. This mentality of “lightskin vs darkskin” has stuck around for ages and not only in the perception of black people but in our perceptions of ourselves.

Take myself as an example. I have a cousin named Mariah. We were born 8 days apart and we have been best friends ever since.

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Photo of baby Brooke and Mariah from my mother’s photo album.

We’ve grown up together and share many similar personality traits so to me, Mariah and I were the same on so many levels. However, as we grew older, I learned that we were different. Not in who we were, but in how the world perceived us.

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Photo of Mariah and I as cute little beach babes from my mother’s photo album.

It started off as little things such as people saying “no way, you’re related! She doesn’t look anything like you” but then insisting that Mariah was related to our light-skinned family friend instead to the compliments of Mariah’s beautiful curly hair, but never my braids. It hurt most when we were in middle school and it felt like so many boys were interested in Mariah and I wondered why I wasn’t getting that same attention. This made a part of me resent her. I decided to ask one of my other cousins at a family gathering and he said “well, a lot of people just aren’t into dark skin girls. I know I only want to be with a lightskin.” And it crushed me (just to rub some salt to the wound, this has actually been empirically proven in one study now).

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Image of a 2014 OkCupid user data article from the Narialand Forum.

Now, I’ve grown to love myself and my skin tone. So what I leave you all with is to understand preference vs prejudice. I still get the occasional “I’m just not into black girls,” but that doesn’t make me turn against my lightskin sisters in the black community and most importantly, I refuse to let it make me turn against myself.

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Image of Mariah and I, all grown up at prom from my Facebook album.