I had to take a few days to process my 3 weeks in Ghana before I could write a proper reflection.
I came home to a country that is in political and racial unrest. Not that this hasn’t been happening for years, but the closer we get to November and the longer it takes for African-Americans to get the equal rights that we have been seeking for too many years to count, the greater the tension of the political and racial climate grows.
On race in America:
I can say without hesitation that my melanin got richer while I was in Ghana. Even though it is definitely hotter now that I am back home, the African sun gave my skin the perfect kiss. I used to avoid the sun in the summer time for fear or me become darker than I already was. In more recent years I take pride in my melanin, and I wear my blackness as a badge of honor.
While in Ghana I was told more times than I could count that I look Ghanaian until I open my mouth to speak. So basically I look black until I open my mouth to speak. That statement felt all too familiar, but the biggest difference was the motivation behind it.
In America ever since I was a little do I was told that I ‘talk white’. Ive been called an oreo among other terms to make me feel bad for being the way I am, or what some would view as me trying to act superior, or white. It’s so interesting how the idea of white supremacy is so engrained into the minds of the global society that we (those of the African diaspora) have been conditioned to believe that ‘white is right’ so much so that we demean and belittle our own for exhibiting ‘good qualities.
White supremacy fuels the idea that an individual that enunciates and knows how to articulate thoughts and opinions is a ‘white’ thing. So is being intelligent and hungry for knowledge. Only white people want to present themselves in the best light possible dressing appropriately and looking the part of someone in power.
The images of black people that are perpetuated and even celebrated are those that depict black people are being loud, ignorant, stubborn, and unwilling to better themselves. That is the image of black people that society will tolerate as a ploy to continue to keep a clear separation of power. Black people have yet to realize control and power that they possess politically, and even the power of our dollar.
While I was away Miss USA 2016, Deshauna Barber was crowned. Race was an aspect of the conversation that was downplayed. Deshauna Barber is the 7th African-American woman in history to win such a prestigious title, the last one being in 2008 (from my understanding). She is a face of color that reigned supreme in the pageant world that is built on a foundation of European beauty standards.
The BET Awards happened this past Sunday, and if that whole celebration wasn’t a reflection of where my head and heart is right now then I don’t know what is. More specifically the performances of artists like Usher, Beyoncé, Kenderick Lamar, etc were especially ‘woke’. However, there was one moment that takes the cake: Jesse Williams’ Humanitarian Award acceptance speech.
I have seen Jesse Williams’ speech too many times to count, and I am beyond proud everytime I watch it. He is urging black America to wake up, and take back our country, to stop being victimized by people that ultimately we empower. To realize that they run a country that wouldn’t even be standing if it wasn’t for our blood, sweat, and tears.
Conversations can be game changers but it is important to create boundaries and remember the overall purpose especially when these conversations are being had with the majority. I can be afraid to have intelligent debates and conversations to enlighten others and myself through knowledge, tolerance, and respect. Each party must also understand the place that perspective plays in the individual reality that each human being is entitled to. However, facts are facts and that fact is indisputable.
Since being back I had to take a moment to thank the white people in my life that are ‘woke’. For the majority of my life I have been in situations where I find myself the minority.. classrooms, choral music classes/gatherings, the musical the musical theatre community… very few around me look like I do in the world that I live in. So, to encounter and individual who is not blind to their supremacy and privilege is a slowly decreasing rarity. There are some white people out there who are constantly advocating for equality and an even playing field, and want to see people of the African diaspora flourish. They are there celebrating when we win, and providing empathy and a desire to learn and know more when tragedies and injustices occur.
The root of everything can be summed up in one term: Sankofa.
You really have to know where you came from to know where you have the potential to go. Question everything. Do not take crumbs from the table, get in the kitchen and make your own meal. Always have strength and pride, stay informed, and don’t complain about issues that you aren’t willing to get up to do the work to rectify. Be grateful for the progress, but don’t become complacent. When you reach back don’t just reach back for the technicalities of history, there is more that can be gained from the past. The stories, traditions, practices, etc. those are all things that we can draw on as African-Americans to stay connected to what enriches, and break away from what is depleting us as a race.
“Perception is reality, and reality is in my world there is no black and white, only shades of K…”