In the states, Canada, and likely the UK, people of color can likely pinpoint the exact time someone pointed out their skin color. It can be classified as, “the first time you became black.” It’s a feeling that you never forget. It’s like knowing where you were with “J.R. was shot,” (the 1980’s show Dynasty) or where you were when John F. Kennedy was killed, or more recently, where you were when New York’s Twin Towers were struck by terrorists. It’s a moment in time that you just never forget; it's forever seared into your consciousness like a grilled egg.
Most blacks in the west have a story like this, unfortunately in America, the story comes much too early in life. If you were lucky, you had a family member who broke the news to you, in an effort to prepare you for the racist and bigoted behavior that awaited, – if not, white America was destined to point it out.
What’s most interesting about this issue is that folks from other countries in the African Diaspora often don’t think of themselves in terms of color until they travel west to places like America. In their home countries like Senegal, Haiti, Ghana, they never experience racial bias because everyone looks the same. So, they’ve never had anyone hurl the “n-word” their way.
For African-Americans, imagine what it must feel like if everyone looked like you: no one ever following you around the grocery store, you never feeling compelled to prove yourself by over-performing at school, on the job, or on the football field. Most of us in the west have had theses moments. It’s like navigating a world as a second-class citizenship everyday.
Folks in predominately African populated countries, whether they realize it or not, are spared theses kinds of life shattering racialized experiences. Often they don’t come to terms with their blackness until they enter a western country and some stranger on any given Sunday decides to point out the brown skin in some derogatory fashion.
I wish there was a way for us to go back and heal those moments. Tell ourselves that those moments had little to do with us as the receiver and everything to do with them as the giver. Yet, I think it’s important that those of us black folks in the west, realize that there are places in the African Diaspora where our color blends into the ocean like an eternal wave, places where we fit seamlessly, and destinations where we don’t always have to look over our shoulders. Imagine that?
Check out this young woman’s story about the first time she realized that she was “black.”