We Are NOT Your Costume.

Y'all. Halloween is still one of my favorite times of year, even though I'm a smooth 26 years old now. And even though I enjoy myself, I always have to stay on guard and prep myself mentally for the inappropriate and downright ignorant ways that some of your friends out there try to outdo themselves from the previous year. This post isn't about your obvious blackface that happens every year like clockwork, because #idiotsgonnaidiot. I'm not wasting my time on y'all this year. 

Who I DO want to address, though, are the ones who run from criticism and choose to belittle the feelings of others by hiding behind the shield of "I'm a person of color, too!" I want to address those of you out there who try to drown voices like mine out by saying things like "I'm black, and I don't find this offensive." And let's not forget those of you who run to support your tone-deaf friends in their public "apologies" in droves by further drowning my voice and others like it out by saying: 

"You don't need to apologize for anything! ESPECIALLY when it wasn't your intention to hurt anyone." 

"People these days are always trying to find something to be offended about." 

"Haters gonna hate. I think your hair looks amazing in this picture!" 

Let's be VERY clear: NONE OF YOU SPEAK FOR ME. None of you speak for anyone except yourself. It's pitiful to see how black voices respectfully (because y'all always stress that we have to be, right?) share their real, valid feelings repeatedly just to have them square-danced around in order to enthusiastically acknowledge those voices that support a dry afro wig for the sake of getting in touch with an inner "soul sister (look that one up if you don't know the origin of the term)," and even going as far as using the AFROPUNK hashtag to widen the reach of said tomfoolery. Use that same energy to respond to feedback like mine, because it's all about learning from each other, right? Or is that just something y'all like to say that sounds good? 

When you know better, you do better. Or...you delete posts and go into hiding until you've come up with a good enough angle to make yourself out to be the victim "attacked" by fed-up individuals who simply want you to pay more attention to what the hell you're doing.

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In the spirit of not speaking for anyone else, I'll just say that I, myself, am tired. Do with it what you will, but please make an effort to make it positive instead of pretending to build bridges by starting one-sided "conversations."

After all, "We are community that needs to come together to move forward," right? 
 

Ijeoma Oluo is the Hero I Needed in These Times

First of all, read Ijeoma Oluo's article on the person formerly known as Rachel Dolezal if you haven't already.

(Hint...click the bolded portion of that sentence to head straight there.) 

I read the article while I was at work yesterday, and today I had to run to Twitter to tell Ms. Oluo thank you. It is hard work for people of color on an emotional level to engage with whiteness that is closed off to the concept of introspection. So much so that all we can receive in the end is answers we already knew. Here's what I gathered: 

  • The person formerly known as Rachel Dolezal gives off the impression that she sees true black people as inferior and less intelligent. 
  • She's riding that white savior wave
  • Becoming a black woman felt like the right fit for her because she didn't grow up rich (because apparently poor white people aren't' actually a thing? Ok, girl.)

Reading that article opened my eyes to a ton of things I experienced from an organization I worked with for almost a year that were like a mix of "Nkechi (she thought...)" and the moment when Issa Rae gave me that gut-punching monologue about Secret White Meetings in Insecure. Ramona Dixon herself is an extreme case of whiteness taking over, fetishizing and remaining willfully ignorant, but I was surrounded by a room full. And the most DEFINITELY had Secret White Meetings. The Oluo article shockingly gave me a sense of closure. Yes, it's info that we all pretty much assumed about the woman. Yet Ijeoma Oluo truly came through and carried the team on her back for this one so that we could all begin the process of putting Rac...Nkechi...in the backs of our minds.

 

Is there a particular line from Ijeoma Oluo's article that hit close to home for you?  

Here's Why I'll Always Be Proud of My Blackness

Recently, I did a photoshoot with an AMAZING photographer named Sirena. She's the owner of Aneris Photography here in Charleston, and something amazingly spiritual happened for me in the middle of our shoot. 

We ended up passing by what's commonly known as Old Slave Mart of Downtown Charleston. I can be very emotional when I'm so close to places where I feel like the impressions of the ancestors run deep, and I recall breaking down after visiting the marker of a former slave port last year. Sirena wanted to get some pics there because let's be real: how powerful of a moment is it to take photos of a black woman in a gown representing her culture in front of a place symbolizing the history of oppression of her heritage? Don't play.

Then, we both spotted a single Palmetto Rose on the ground (I provided a link to a brief blurb for you on the history of it so you can catch up in your free time, but definitely feel free to get lost in the research of sweetgrass basket weaving. I won't judge!). She told me to pick it up and stand in the archway of the market so she could get some shots. I was HYPER AWARE of the people around us (mostly white) slowing down to stare, and one man in particular who was across the street eating in a restaurant couldn't take his eyes off of me. A few white ladies walked by and were extremely vocal about how amazing I looked, but I don't think they really understood the significance. 

But a black woman rode past, SLOWED DOWN HER CAR, and yelled: 

"Yasss, SIS! You better wear that dress in front the slave market, honey. You are GORGEOUS for the culture."

This pic is of me interacting with that woman. 

 

 Photo Credit: Aneris Photography  This photo IS Lifestyle, Culture & Social Justice all in one, y'all.

Photo Credit: Aneris Photography

This photo IS Lifestyle, Culture & Social Justice all in one, y'all.

 

I come from a people who have been through so much. And yet, we always find was to continue to elevate ourselves. Me standing in the midst of where my people were sold like cattle, wearing not only that dress but my MELANIN? Holding on to a piece of our culture (that ROSE)? This picture makes me realize that even on my weakest days I am forged in strength, and my sole purpose in my turn at life is to not let those who came before me down. That's why I'll NEVER apologize for how Black I am. 

 

Why are you proud of your own specific cultural background? I'd love to know!

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"It's the Way They Talk to You"

A young black girl, maybe thirteen at the most, said this to me one day about her anxieties when interacting with white people. Constantly wanting to build her comfort level and let her know that she didn't have to fear them all, I had to get real about my own anxieties. I know exactly what it's like to struggle with keeping your hurt under wraps so that you're not proving the world right by being "angry" and black. 

I've since lost touch with this child, and it eats away at me every day. I listened to so many negative words about her, and felt stuck. Why?

 

Because when you disagree, nine times out of ten it will be taken as you not wanting to associate with white people to create change.  

 

The hyperaccountability attached to people of color is a heavy weight for us to carry around. You can't dissent too much, and it's constantly your responsibility to build bridges between the ones who look like you and those who don't. You leave conversations on cultural differences feeling more exhausted from your efforts, and as though nothing was actually heard at all. You feel secondary, and like a prop who can't be trusted to actually do the tough work. One of my lowest points was feeling as though I was part of something because my skin made the group look better.  

I don't engage in Facebook discussions about my humanity any longer. Although it probably isn't the BEST method according to some, I choose to delete those people who have proven their bigotry time and time again. I have the right to tailor something as small as a digital friends list to reflect people who care for me at the deepest level. I choose to surround myself with those who are comfortable saying "I see your color, and realize how it affects your daily walk through life." So many times, I've witnessed my own boyfriend treated as something not even close to human. People who didn't even know him have accused him over the years of being everything from a drug dealer, to a thief, to even being abusive. All because of the way he LOOKS. It's like no matter how agreeable you are, you still can't win. 

This year, I choose to start coming out on top. Will you? 

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Sometimes, all we want is your ear. For you to HEAR us. 

But we can't even get that much. 

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Don't Tell Us to Smile: The First Southern Discomfort Discussion

 A small portion of that day's panel. I'm sure our faces hint at how intense the day was. 

A small portion of that day's panel. I'm sure our faces hint at how intense the day was. 

If you’re up to speed on Charleston news, you probably saw the wildly inappropriate #SlaveBaby picture that some kid decided was a good idea to draw.

My friend, Diaspoura, called the artists and others out on it. Long story short, we had a panel about a week ago, and I was asked to sit on it.

This was my second panel appearance of any kind to date, and the nerves I felt beforehand were ridiculously unbearable. I was sick to my stomach, and kept moaning just like Tina from Bob’s Burgers. Why?

It was the first time I’d ever been given a place to talk about racial issues, and the fact that perpetrators are so quick to claim ignorance and obliviousness cuts me deeply on a daily basis. We were asked the question, “What is the spectrum of racism?” and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. And yet, I actually found the words. My answer?

“Racism can be blatant, but it is also saying, “anyone who knows me knows I’m not like that.”

This is on my list of top 5 hated phrases. I DON’T KNOW YOU. Therefore, in the moment where you felt it was cool to draw a baby in shackles with a large nose and lips, you gave me all of the impression that I needed.

The artist claimed to not know why he chose to draw the picture, but I honestly think he was embarrased to be on stage in front of everyone by that point. Why those features? I would have respected him better had he just flat out said, “When I think of ‘slaves’, I think of black people. When I think of black people, I think of fat lips and noses.”

It wasn’t long before the Uncle Ruckus-types came out of the woodworks, and to say that I was so ashamed for them? One was so misinformed as to say,

“We’re crying about white people being racist towards us, but we as black folks can be racist, too.”

There is WAY TOO MUCH reading material available for anyone to still be believing that. Minorities can be PREJUDICED, meaning that it is possible for us to dislike someone for the way they are. It only can be classified as racism when power of some kind is able to be exercised over another group because of how they look. See the Trail of Tears. See Slavery.

 

 

This one got me too, and it was in response to artists Matt Monday and Benjamin Starr sharing with the audience the struggles of trying to book Charleston area clubs as hip hop artists. Now, I assumed the screwed up part was the realization that they’re only able to book certain shows when a white colleague calls venues on their behalf. But the KICKER, y’all? A fellow “hip hop” artist countered with, “Go slow.”

 

 

Y’ALL. All I could hear in my head was Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” These artists want change NOW. Wait and go slow FOR WHAT? I’m ready for this next panel, because it’s evident that focused discussion needs to be maintained, and citywide political education needs to be a thing.


Did you catch the panel in person or on Facebook Live? What are your thoughts? Also? 

Click on those links and LISTEN to that music. I didn't share it for nothing. Get into it and support our local artists. Click the links.