Updated: Jun 19
I am bi-racial. My father is black and my mother was white. I grew up on a Caribbean island where society was a true melting pot of colours, and race was never an issue. I never felt the need to identify with being either black or white. Or even “mixed” for that matter. I always just me, a unique human being. I see the privilege in being able to grow up that way, not everyone is given the opportunity to see themselves, without first being identified by colour.
It was only when I moved to North America did I begin to see that the world was in fact separated by colour. And being “mixed”, I was often asked to categorize myself into one camp or the other. To choose a side if you will. I never understood it. How do you choose one side of your family vs the other? How do you reduce your life experience to the confines of a particular colour? What about all the other things that define who I am not related to the colour of my skin? I still don’t understand.
When we classify people, we no longer see them as individuals. We are not able to hear THEIR voice, understand THEIR stories or see THEIR unique identity, instead we let judgments and stereotypes guide who we think they are. And the unfortunate reality of our world is that some colors are inherently afforded more rights and privileges than others because of the shade of their skin.
Racial bias exists everywhere. It’s in all of us. It’s built into the society we live in. It is served up to us every day through media, advertising, music , TV shows and books. It’s not just overt acts of violence and aggression; it can even be rooted well-meaning thoughts and actions perpetuated by stereotypes. The question on the table right now is not “I am racist or not racist “, but rather “where on the spectrum of racial bias do I fall?” Not to shame, judge or beat ourselves up but rather to become aware of how and when that bias is impacting our thoughts and actions in any given moment or situation.
𝗪𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗮 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗲. 𝗪𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗹𝘀 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝘆 𝗹𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝗼𝗱𝗶𝗲𝘀.
It’s up to us to see the human beneath the stereotype or bias of colour; Hear their voice, listen to their stories and acknowledge our varying and sometimes vastly different experiences. For those of us born into lighter skinned bodies, we must use our privilege to educate ourselves and become advocates; to stand for and beside each other not just for black rights but for human rights. In the words of Austin Channing Brown “𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗻𝘁𝗶 𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗶𝘀𝗺 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗮 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘀”