I was born and raised in a middle class, multi-race neighborhood in Philadelphia. Since infancy, I gravitated towards the black community. My late mother always said it was because the nurse who took care of me when I was born happened to be black. Like me, my mother was an equal opportunity lover, friend, co-worker who’d give the shirt off her back for anyone who needed it. And she did. I saw her do it at least once.
Growing up, the racism-related incidents I witnessed and even personally experienced were uncountable. Strangers and even schoolteachers harassed me for “hanging with the blacks.” My mother battled with my school to dispute an “F” we both knew I didn’t deserve on my report card. My mother won. I got my deserved “B” and, “More importantly,” my mother said, the teacher was “let go.”
As I got older, the racism continued. Depending on the circumstance, I felt it my responsibility to speak on my friends’ behalves so they wouldn’t be either verbally abused or further discriminated. I didn’t know whether doing so made any type of difference in retrospect, but I know undoubtedly my heart was in the right place in those moments. It was a place where I wanted to avoid a bigot making my friends shed more tears; A place where I could possibly protect them from the ignorance of others; A place where I wanted to assure them I loved them and we’d get through anything together. It was the same place where I felt utterly embarrassed to be part of the human race.
New experiences shed light and somewhat changed my perspective as I entered adulthood and traveled abroad. Although these experiences have been the catalyst for my acceptance of no longer being embarrassed to be human, I still find myself analyzing people in general and, more times than not, am convinced almost everyone has at least a little hypocrite inside them. It doesn’t have to be an obvious situation. It can be the way someone stands in line at the grocery store, the way they interact with their friends, what they choose to eat, read or watch on television.
The unfortunate part for me is I now realize my efforts – as one tiny individual in a very different time – made no difference at all. When I hear about things like the uproar over Angelina Jolie playing Cleopatra in a movie and Sandra Bullock adopting a child who happens to be black, it turns me into that same person I was decades ago. Except this time I WANT to represent white America: The place I never thought I’d want to be and of which, in fact, would’ve bet my life I’d never be part when it came to any race-related issue.While it’s no secret I am a serious fan of both Vanessa Williams and Halle Berry, I do think the role of Cleopatra is suited for a famous Egyptian actress. As for Sandra Bullock and her new baby, I want to look each black person in the face and shout, “Would you rather a baby stay in foster care and never know what love feels like? Would you really rather that child not have a guardian and provider because that guardian and provider is not black? Is your disapproval for interracial families stronger than your desire for the children of America to grow up in homes filled with love, laughter and support?”
What I once regarded as validated and justifiable frustration has, over time, spiraled into out-of-control irrationalism amongst the black community. These uproars are not about justice and equality. Oftentimes, they’re not about significant issues. They’re about trying to inflict guilt and revenge on generations of people who, like myself, would actually like to regard each individual with the same level of respect as any other; As a human being.
Outcries respected by key figures created platforms for black America to be rightly honored and recognized. But these same platforms divide America today. And ongoing uproars over which entertainers play which roles in which films and who’s adopting what color baby serve as the channel for modernized segregation. 14 decades after slavery was abolished.
This brings me to my journey through Europe, where a few acquaintances from Amsterdam asked, “Why does America have so many issues with skin color? In Amsterdam, we don’t identify people by their skin color. We’re all just Dutch.” Just Dutch. Wow. Even parts of Europe, widely known for starting slavery, have evolved to generally regarding everyone equally. Imagine that. In America. If for just one second.