Being Black: A Love/Hate Relationship

             Let me just make this clear: I LOVE being black. I love my skin, my hair (when it behaves), and all the physical attributes of being black. The “hate” part of the relationship that comes in is pure mental or even social. I sometimes mentally hate being black, and that is ONLY due to the stigma, stereotypes, and unfair associations that come along with being black.

            I said “let me make that clear” but in reality that was more confusing. To me being black is only a physical trait that I have and often times people forget that. When they see me, I’m a black woman that has a job. Or I’m a black woman that is in Target. I’m a black woman that is a mom. I’m not just a woman, or a person. Being black comes with being a whole lot of “extra”. For example, being a black woman sometimes means I’m loud, angry, bitter, hostile, or aggressive. (I’m none of these) So let me just remind you: SKIN color is just that, SKIN. People of all color are capable of ALL actions. So many problems arise in the world because people try to associate skin color with acting a certain way, thinking a certain way, foods that are eaten, clothes worn, work ethic, criminal history, diseases, etc. Unfortunately for black people these actions that are associated with us are often negative, and even deadly.

            Hundreds of years ago war was declared on those of us with the colored skin. Africans were brought from our mainland and forced into slavery. (We all know the story, although it has been rewritten, told incorrectly, and even watered down). Our culture was destroyed, way of life annihilated, and families were ripped apart. We STILL see the ramifications of these actions TODAY. Men were separated from their families and forced to do the harder labor, so women were forced to raise their children alone. The men were beaten and forced to work for the “master” or the “White man”. The “White man” profited HUGELY from the work of slaves, who weren’t given a dime. The darker skinned slaves were forced to work the fields, while the lighter skinned were allowed to work in the house. Slave masters were known to force the women slaves to have sex with them, and to bare their children, who then were lighter skinned. These lighter skinned slaves were then seen as better than the dark skinned slaves.

            Hmm…let’s think about this. Men no longer lead the African-American household. Women forced to raise their children alone, and to lead the household. Black man working for the “white man” and the “White man” making all the profit. Light skin being seen better than dark skin? Hmmm..any of this sounding familiar?

            War was declared on blacks a long time ago and we are still living with the effects. Now this is where the love/hate relationship comes in. I LOVE being black and that’s because after all of that we OVER CAME it. We were freed from slavery (No Mr. Lincoln you will not be painted as a savior here), we became educated and fought for our rights. We built our culture back up and like a phoenix set on fire, we rose again from our ashes. The mantra “I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD” came alive! I love being black being black because I have been taught through reading all about my culture, and heritage. I know that we came from kings and queens, inventors, fighters like Martin, Malcom, Fred, and Harriet. These were people that stood up against oppression and took us from slavery all the way to the White House! So yes, I love being black.

            And sadly, here is where the hate comes in. I hate that when I accomplish something it’s seen differently because I’m black. I hate that because I speak correct English and use appropriate grammar I’m told that I “talk white”.  I hate that when I graduated college it was a surprise because I was black. Apparently black people, or black women, or maybe black women raised by single mothers, don’t graduate college. I hate that when I walk into an interview I know that my chance of getting the job is lowered because I’m black. And largely, I hate that I have to fear for my son, my future sons, my black male friends, and my brothers’ safety when they walk out into the world because they are black.

            I hate that a lot of the oppression of black people comes from BLACK PEOPLE. I hate that a lot of the negative things and actions I hear concerning black people are from black people. A war was declared on us a long time ago, and you would think black people have jumped on board and declared war on ourselves! Due to the slave mentality that a lot of us still have we are the ones that have convinced ourselves that light skin is better than dark skin even though we are all black. We have convinced ourselves that a black person getting an education and a good job and being a productive member of society is “acting white”. We have convinced OURSELVES that there is nothing that can be done when we are wronged, and we tolerate when wrong is done against us. We do these things to ourselves and then have the nerve to get mad when someone outside the race does it to us. That is what I HATE.

            We have seen recent cases in the news that make us all cringe. Black mother is arrested for leaving her kids in the car for a job interview and sentenced to prison, while a white mother who was high and left her kid on top of the car and drove off was given probation. Young black boy was shot dead while walking home from the store, and shooter walks away. While a black woman fires her weapon into the air to avoid and attack is sentenced to prison. Black man, on his wedding day, is driving with friends and is shot to death when the police shoot over 50 bullets into the car because they thought they saw a weapon. Black boy serves over 10 years in prison because white girl accuses him of rape and he is convicted without any evidence. And recently, black boy shot by police while pleading for his life and asking them NOT to shoot him. I hate hearing about these cases because we all know they would have been different outcomes if the victims were white. But instead of just talking about what I love and hate, I ask myself what am I doing to CHANGE it?

            The truth is we can complain all we want but we know what type of world we live in. We have no choice but to face it. We would like to think we live in a nation where everyone is treated equally in the eyes of the law, or when it comes to facing a bullet from the gun of an officer, but we don’t. But the question is what are we going to do about it? In the past we have fought back, we became educated, we voted, and we stood together. But what will we do now? If we are not being a part of the solution, we are only contributing to the problem.

            I don’t know about you but I want to be a part of the solution. I want to quit complaining and being sad about what is displayed on the news and actually start doing something. And where does it start? It starts at home. It starts with being educated about what’s going on around you, in your household, and in your community. It starts with me educating myself, and then educating my son.  It starts with getting active in the community helping young people make better decisions, get on the right path, and off the street. It starts with putting an end to these ridiculous stereotypes of black people. Because WE DO work hard, WE DO have emotions, WE DO raise our kids, WE DO have jobs and pay our way, WE DO vote, WE DO contribute, WE DO make this world a better place, and WE DO deserve the same rights as everyone around us.

            How do we change the laws and the law enforcement that is clearly not protecting us? We educate our children that they can be policemen, judges, city officials, Senators, and Congressman. Those are NOT just jobs for white people. We start voting, knowing who we are putting in office, and making sure they are making decisions for US and not just themselves. When I say vote, it’s not the just the presidential election because we have a black candidate, it’s about local elections. We need more black policeman, police chiefs, lawyers, and judges. Clearly we are fighting a system that was NEVER built to protect us, so instead of letting it beat us we become a part of the solution.

            To me personally, I feel a lot of change has to happen first in the black community. We have to get rid of these stereotypes that turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.  We convince ourselves that we can’t eat better, dress better, act better, or do certain things because that’s “acting white”.  We don’t support each other, and instead put each other down when we are trying to better ourselves, so in the end we look like crabs in a bucket. In reality we all need each other to lift each other up and become better.  It doesn’t help to be a light skin person thinking you’re better than a black skin person when you’re living in white world. It doesn’t help to put one black person down because you make a little more money than they do, when you’re both living in poverty. It doesn’t help to call one person stupid for trying to make a difference by voting or getting educated, when you haven’t made a move. These actions get us nowhere, but left behind.

            And behind we are black people. We are at the bottom of education: only 18% of blacks 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree after 2012. We are at the bottom of the income pile: The average black family in 2012 had an income of $33,321 compared to $51,000 for the nation. There was a 27% poverty rate for blacks in 2012, compared to the nation average of 15%. As for the criminal justice department? Politely put, there is a prediction of prison. 1 in 3 black men expect to go to prison in their lifetime. People of color make up about 30% of the US population but account for 60% imprisoned. Black students (and Hispanic) made up 70% of the arrests made in schools, which lead to our youth being put into the juvenile system early. According to the Sentencing Project, African-American juvenile youth are about 17 % of the youth population yet 37% of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58% of African-American youth are sent to adult prisons! (Stats from Center of American Progress)

            Those numbers may not be surprising to most, but they are still frightening. However, these issues are preventable. No one is going to change us, we have to change us. We have to fix US. So ask yourself, are you part of the problem or the solution?

Make sure to SHARE Love, 

Anitra Oneill

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