A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing the late Malcom X’s daughter, Ilaysah Shabazz, speak on behalf of Black America and the Civil Rights struggle. Although she had some moments that caused me to question her validity, there was one point she made that latched into my memory and journey with me home: Maintain my cultural identity and be proud of who I am.
As Shabazz referenced the Clark Doll study that was redone with the same horrific results, my mind journeyed back to my childhood. I hated my color and turned green toward my “light-skinned” peers. In my mind their looks were superior. Smooth caramel skin complemented their exotic brown, hazel and green eyes. They didn’t bear the curse of ugly dark blemished skin like I did. Instead I envisioned them as goddesses on a pedestal, light from above radiating their faces, guys at their feet adorning them and lusting after their flesh. The Goddesses were the epitome of beauty and as for me…
That’s what I longed to be.
Our culture carries this ideal with references of light-skinned/ redbone beauties in our language, literature and music. There’s no doubt this comes from the days of slavery. Those with light skin gained the “honor” of working inside while our dark-skinned ancestors tired in the sun with tedious field work. The light skin slaves were shown what was thought to be favoritism and another skin barrier was placed on our people. One we still carry.
However, the label was not warranted. Whether a house slave or a field slave, the people were still in captivity. Those who worked inside struggled with a different battle. They were forced to endure hatred from the mistress of the house even though they cared for a household and raised kids that weren’t their own. Why? Because they were being raped and impregnated with their master’s seed.
Shabazz spoke of her father giving us our identity back as African descendants, not just Negros. Malcolm X taught his followers to recognize that we were not barbaric, but a strong people who helped build this nation. He taught them to embrace our culture.
But instead we keep ourselves in bondage with our words. We greet each other with the term Nigga. And in turn our generations are turning into the meaning of the very word… ignorant. Our schools are slipping into dropout factories. Those ex-students turn into ex-convicts. Searching for belonging, our children are using gangs as family. Searching for a quick buck, our children turn to the hustle. And to keep their devotion, street credibility and territory, they turn their race brothers and sisters into the enemy- killing each other where they stand. What is really up, my Nigga?
Yes, we keep ourselves in bondage with our words. Terms of endearment have transformed from friend, lover and baby to b****, ho, baby mama and daddy. Women are tools for sexual gratification, and they accept that. Main chick beats sideline ho, but baby mama has the longevity of at least 18 years because of lil man or lil mama- that is if daddy decides to be in that child’s life. Now that can be a physical presence or a paper check presence- the mama don’t care as long as she gets her money. She tells baby dad’s no good ,and dad tells baby she’s a trifling b****, neither realizing the negative influence they’re creating so early. Meanwhile, in the streets everyone goes to each other dapping each other up but never telling each other they love the other- no that’s too simple. They cut each other down with harsh jokes and laugh and exclaim, “Suck it up Nigga, you still my b****!”
Ugh the vulgarity of this perpetual cycle makes my head spin.
The real question is can we reverse it? Shabazz told of her newly widowed mother who was left poor and homeless with six daughters- two who were newborn twins. Refusing to accept defeat, she cared for her daughters and furthered her education.
We can be new age Shabazz’s. The odds are stacked against us, and “the man” is betting on us to fail. Yet this doesn’t make revamping the black image impossible. The civil rights era taught us that if we rally together we can overcome. “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Be the village that our ancestors said was necessary to raise our people. We can plant seeds of positivity in our children, water them with love and let them sprout into vehicles of change.
Our people are slowly perishing. It’s time to break ourselves from our self-bondage and be free. Let’s save our race before it’s too late.
I am not uneducated, ignorant or incapable of learning
I am not like any other
I am not a waste of space or a disgrace
I am not ambitiousless
I am not belligerent or barbaric
I am not a whore or a b****h
I am not wasteland for men to deposit their empty pleasures
I am not a fool
No, I’m just not…
I am a kind heart
I am a fresh spirit
I am a sister, a daughter, a niece, a cousin
I am a melting of powerful generations
I am faith, hope and love
I am a strong individual, driven to succeed
I am beautiful
I am destined for greatness
I am a power for change
But more than that
I’m a woman, phenomenally.
Phenomenal African American woman,